GPC’s Advent art project, The Jesse Tree, is being installed. New pieces are on display each Sunday. One of those pieces is a plywood sculpture of the Jesse Tree which I’ll be writing more about later. The other pieces are a combination of abstract art and poetry.
Why Abstract Art?
Representational art is often viewed as being inherently more worthy than abstract art. The seemingly inherit chaos of the art is viewed in some circles as refuting the idea of transcendent truth. This is false. All art abstracts at some level. The artists eye and imagination always works to communicate and focus. Every artist embellishes, adds qualities, or makes use of symbolism. Abstract art, however, does this with an abandon. The artist hands-over the painting’s meaning to the viewer, and in so doing, the viewer’s imagination becomes as important as the artist’s imagination in order to give the painting meaning.
How Do You Read Abstract Art?
There are several cues one may use to help read abstract art. Many abstract paintings have titles. The titles give you some clue as to the artist’s intent. Next, look at the colors and lines. How has the artist used line, color, and flow to communicate? Secondly, look at the larger context used. Is there a theme to the series? What sorts of references may the artist have been drawing from or which you are aware that may help you discern a meaning? Lastly, talk and share with others your ideas. Abstract art is about engaging the imagination and discovering meaning.
Each piece of art in this portion of the Jesse Tree project is accompanied by an ekphrastic poem. Ekphrastic poems are poems which are written in response to a specific piece of artwork. In ekphrastic poetry we are offered a view into the poet’s imagination as they dialogue with the artist’s work.
Here’s the first piece in the series. It corresponds to 1 Samuel 17 and the story of David and Goliath. The painting is titled, “Slingshot.” How do you read the colors? The lines? How can you derive a story from the painting about David’s struggle with Goliath? Because this is part of the Jesse Tree project, how does this relate to Jesus? How might who Jesus is and what he has done be brought to bear in the artwork’s meaning?
Here’s my attempt to read the painting in poetry. This poem too, is entitled, “Slingshot.”
Once the world was shining-new, golden-bright,
Untouched by shade or stain but brilliant-white;
Then an enemy came
To steal by dark deeds, claim.
The menacing darkness blurred, broke, and scarred—
Tore with violence, crossed, mangled, marred
The field of shimm’ring gold
Whence all was lost or sold.
The darkness continued to blur and streak,
Sent giants: Despair, Dementor, Defeat
Who laughed at our fear, scoffed,
Defied our Lord, and mocked.
But God’s Shepherd descended in between,
Went outside the camp where he was last seen—
For our glory-sealing,
Bearing stripes for healing.
He flung himself at death, and slew the Night
And with his arms he slings us up in life.
© Randall Edwards 2019. This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thank you.