Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Artist and the Archbishop

Wikipedia states that "Theological aesthetics is the interdisciplinary study of theology and aesthetics, and has been defined as being "concerned with questions about God and issues in theology in the light of and perceived through sense knowledge (sensation, feeling, imagination), through beauty, and the arts".

This field of study is broad and includes not only a theology of beauty, but also the dialogue between theology and the arts, such as dance, drama, film, literature, music, poetry, and the visual arts.

Notable theologians and philosophers that have dealt with this subject include Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Hans Urs von Balthasar, among others."

Rowan Williams, The Archbishop of Canterbury, was born in Swansea, south Wales was Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford before becoming a Bishop.

He is acknowledged internationally as an outstanding theological writer, scholar and teacher.

In 2005, he delivered the Clark Lectures, at Trinity College, Cambridge. They were entitled Grace, Necessity and Imagination: Catholic Philosophy and the Twentieth Century Artist In Lecture 2 the theme was David Jones: Material Words

The main part of the lecture discussed the poems and art works of David Jones, the Catholic Welsh artist.

In the lecture (and the series of which it forms part), he explores some of the most original and creative minds in the recent Catholic tradition:Jacques Maritain, the artist Eric Gill and the poet and painter David Jones.

The sign or symbol, whether verbal or material, is a necessary vehicle of meaning and not an illustration of it, calling not for reduction or explanation but response.

In Dr Williams' development of his theme he discusses modern philosophy (Wittgenstein's aesthetics) but also examines modern art, the work of the American writer Flannery O'Connor and the writings of the poet and artist David Jones on art and sacrament and the underlying theology of artistic production.

According to Williams, Jones exemplifies the quest to bring pulsions of intuition to light through the exercise of artistic skill.

During the first half of his career, Jones focused on the visual media of pencil, watercolour, and etching.

Williams examines Jones’ effort to express the “being more” of things through the increasingly complex use of interweaving lines to produce overlapping images on a single plane.

Later in life, Jones tried to reconstruct that same complexity through poetry, which Williams calls “material words.”

In his poetry, according to Williams, Jones was attempting to correct Gill’s unfortunate distortion of Maritain’s distinction between art and morality.

Maritain, Williams reminds us, did not mean to suggest that the two realms are entirely unrelated. The good of art is the good of reality displayed in its super-effluence, and it is directed toward the good of human contemplation, which is inextricably linked to the moral life