I’ve been reading a lecture by Paul Klee called, On Modern Art. And I think Klee expresses that there’s something very God-shaped about the way an abstract artist paints. Let me explain what I mean…
Paul Klee was a German artist working at the beginning of the twentieth century. His art and his work on the theoretical underpinnings of painting had a big influence on Modern art, and now there’s a whole museum, the Zentrum Paul Klee, dedicated to him in Bern. In the lecture, Klee deals with an issue that often troubles people as they look at modern or abstract art: how can an artist end up with a picture that looks so different fromwhat it’s supposed to be, or from anything else in nature?
Here’s part of Klee’s answer…
First, he does not attach such intense importance to natural forms as do so many realist critics, because for him these final forms are not the real stuff of the process of natural creation. For he places more value on the powers which do the forming that on the final forms themselves.
He is, perhaps unintentionally, a philosopher, and if he does not, with the optimists, hold this world to be the best of all possible worlds, nor to be so bad that it is unfit to serve as a model, yet he says:
“In its present shape it is not the only possible world.”
The deeper he looks, the more readily he can extend his view from the present to the past, the more deeply he is impresses by the one essential image of creation itself, as Genesis, rather than by the image of nature, the finished product.
Then he permits himself the thought that the process of creation can today hardly be complete and he sees the act of world creation stretching from the past to the future.
…Such mobility of thought… had the power to more the artist fundamentally, and since he is himself mobile, he may be relied upon to maintain freedom of development of his owm methods… Your realist, however, coming across such an illustration in sensational magazine, would exclaim in great indignation: “Is that supposed to be nature? I call it bad drawing.”
It’s tempting to look at a painting and judge it based on how closely it resembles what you can see. But Klee is suggesting that an artist is free, or even driven, to go beyone the physical reality you see before you to the process and forces that formed it. That’s what’s important – the finished result, either in creation or on the canvas, is incidental, because a whole host of other possibilities were possible in our everchanging world.
What I hear Klee saying here is that in trying to get beneath the skin of the reality of an object, an artist is trying to get past what has been created to consider the Creator. He calls this impersonal, philosophical quantity “Genesis eternal.” I call it the Lord, the Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth. Every inch of creation does indeed declare his name. But the results are not incidental – each rock and animal and plant was crafted by Him and placed in His world. And as an artist experiences the inspiration and freedom to create, he follows in the footsteps of the Artist.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.