I consider myself incredibly blessed that author Sylvain Reynard wrote this beautiful piece on faith and art for my blog. Reynard is the bestselling author of the Gabriel’s Inferno Series and the Florentine Series. The next installment of the Florentine Series, The Shadow, is due in February 2016.
“Art, Faith, and Vincent van Gogh”
By Sylvain Reynard
In my novels, I explore the theme of redemption, along with the themes of faith, hope, and love. The characters themselves have varying beliefs, ranging from atheism to theism. I see each character as being on some sort of spiritual journey.
In what follows, I’d like to explore the connection between art and faith.
Indulge me for a moment and listen to the song “O Theo” by Matthew Perryman Jones:
The song lyrics, (which you can read here http://www.songlyrics.com/matthew-perryman-jones/o-theo-lyrics/), are derived from letters written by Vincent van Gogh to his brother, Theo.
The song expresses Vincent’s experience as he struggled to be a preacher and then left that calling. It also describes a romantic encounter and his longing for home. But there’s more to it.
Now consider this painting:
“Starry Night” is a painting of a skyline. It’s about a view of the sky and the stars and the buildings and trees below. But there’s more to it.
I’ve chosen these two artistic works to illustrate a couple of points.
1) Good art elicits a feeling of awe and transcendence in its audience.
I use “art” here to include not only the visual arts, but also the performing arts.
The feeling of awe elicited by good art is similar to what the Romantic poets and thinkers identified as the Sublime.
2) Good art points to a transcendent reality that includes truth, beauty, and goodness.
Not only does art elicit an experience of awe in the audience, but art also points to something beyond itself – something transcendent.
3) In my view, the transcendent reality that is truth, beauty, and goodness, is the object of faith.
It’s part of the human condition to long for home, as expressed in Vincent’s words to his brother. We all long to be accepted, to love and be loved, for forgiveness, grace, and peace. We long for the sublime, the transcendent, the beautiful, and the good, even when we get so confused about the truth of those things we go searching for them in self-destructive and harmful places.
But every question has an answer. Every desire has an object. And the object of our longing for home is precisely the object of faith, in my view.
There’s something about art (and especially good art) that stirs these questions while also pointing to the answers.
I try to express some of these ideas through my attempt at art, which is writing novels. But I tend to see it most clearly in the creative efforts of others, particularly in paintings and in music. I see it in van Gogh, whose work I admire very much.
What’s the piece of art or artistic expression that invokes feelings of the transcendent or the sublime in you?
You can purchase Sylvain Reynard’s books here