Sources of inspiration can be so exalted as to seem transcendent- even when they are only imperfect embodiments of transcendent ideals. All the more should they be valued as stars to navigate by, and the hope of reaching what seems unattainable. At the very least they provide a worthy orientation, and a call for responsibility to sacred tradition.
This is a sampling of some of the people and ideas that provide my inspiration.
"One sees from the example of the human artisan that intelligent action is not -and cannot be- the result of a natural process. The cause of such action cannot therefore be identified on the natural plane, that is to say, in the external world, and may consequently be characterized by default as "internal." But is that not indeed what we normally mean when we speak of "free will"? Now, if by "freedom of the will" we understand an exemption from external causality, then the preceding reflections do in fact establish that freedom in the context of human art. The decisive fact, however, is that intelligent action is "free" by virtue of an intimate participation in the freedom of God Himself. And this divine freedom, to be sure, is infinitely more than a mere exemption from external constraint; after all, it is by virtue of this very freedom that God created the world and thus "external constraint" itself. Freedom, therefore, has primarily a positive connotation: it has to do with creativity, with the expression of truth and beauty, and also with "play," with what Hindu tradition terms lila."
"To understand Mediaeval art needs more than a modern
"course in the appreciation of art ":
it demands an understanding of the spirit of the Middle Ages, the spirit of Christianity itself, and in the last analysis the spirit of what has been well named the "Philosophia Perennis " or " Universal and Unanimous Tradition," of which St. Augustine spoke as a "Wisdom, that was not made, but is now what it always was and ever shall be"; some touch of which will open doors to the understanding of and a delight in any traditional art, whether it be that of the Middle Ages, that of the East, or that of the "folk" in any part of the world."
Henry Moore and Romanesque Sculpture
"I stood before them for a long time. They were just what I wanted to emulate in sculpture: the strength of directly carved form, of hard stone, rather than modelled flowing soft form ... In the Chichester sculptures there is deep human feeling. I think the sense of suffering and tragedy is chiefly given through the heads. Look particularly at the head of Christ in the Raising of Lazarus. The eyebrows and the eyes are sloped steeply downwards from the centreline of the face expressing intense grief."
(Henry Moore, ‘Romanesque Sculpture’, Chichester Nine Hundred, Chichester 1975, p.11, reprinted in Wilkinson 2002, p.111.)
"The triumph of technique over reverence in almost every level of culture in the Western world is traceable to the desacralization of the cosmos."
"Various art movements have emerged since the first decades of the twentieth century. The common theme uniting them, beneath their differing styles and ideological feuds, is an immanentized cosmos."
- Ibid, pg. 92
"One artist imagines himself the creator of an autonomous spiritual world; he hoists upon his shoulders the act of creating this world and of populating it, together with the total responsibility for it. But he collapses under the load, for no mortal genius can bear up under it, just as, in general, the man who declares himself the center of existence is unable to create a balanced spiritual system. And if a failure befalls such a man, the blame is promptly laid to the chronic disharmony of the world, to the complexity of modern man’s divided soul, or to the public’s lack of understanding.
Another artist recognizes above himself a higher power and joyfully works as a humble apprentice under God’s heaven, though graver and more demanding still is his responsibility for all he writes or paints—and for the souls which apprehend it. However, it was not he who created this world, nor does he control it; there can be no doubts about its foundations. It is merely given to the artist to sense more keenly than others the harmony of the world, the beauty and ugliness of man’s role in it—and to vividly communicate this to mankind. Even amid failure and at the lower depths of existence— in poverty, in prison, and in illness—a sense of enduring harmony cannot abandon him."
"Paintings may not have nearly the power to convert people that the printed or spoken word has, but each man has his part to play in the human and divine drama - some persons just a few lines, others whole pages. To refuse to play one's role at all is not the answer. It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
oil on carved wood, 2016
St. Michael the Archangel
The figure of St. Michael is based on Byzantine iconography, while that of the dragon is inspired by the sketches of JRR Tolkien (right).
El Greco and the Fusion of Styles
"Today, the artist is still closely associated with the Venetian artistic tradition, yet his approach to religious art retained a lifelong influence from the Byzantine icons of his youth. Such icons rejected realism in favor of straightforward, symbolic representation, and possessed a sacred function, attempting to embody the divine presence. Tellingly, throughout his life, the artist signed his works with his given Greek name, rather than an Italian or Spanish translation.
His paintings thus appear outside of time: El Greco embraced this ancient artistic tradition as he championed contemporary advancements and foreshadowed evolutions to come. It seems almost fitting that the artist spent years as an outsider in every city, from Italy to Spain, in which he lived. It is precisely his personal vision of art and looking that have made him an artist wholly beyond time and place—the passionate spirituality of his work endures."
- Julia Fiore
"One sees that the Gibsonian theory presents itself as a rediscovery of realism, and indeed, of 'naive realism;' as one might say. And this raises an intriguing question: If a scientifically sound theory of visual perception proves thus to be supportive of realism, might not the demise of realism in Western philosophy, beginning with Descartes, be the result of a scientifically spurious concept of visual perception: a theory, namely, based upon the camera paradigm? If visual perception does in fact constitute our basic means of access to the external world, it stands to reason that a paradigm that locates percepts 'inside the head' does evidently favor non-realist modes of philosophy, be they Cartesian, idealist or skeptical."
Science and Myth,
(Ch 4 "The Enigma of Visual Perception), pg 88
All that is gold does not glitter; not all those who wander are lost; the old that is strong does not wither; deep roots are not reached by the frost.
- J. R. R. Tolkien