Have you ever walked past a painting, seen a photo, read a poem, or listened to a piece of music and something just *clicked*?
You can’t really explain what ‘it’ is. All you know is that the art impacted you. In that moment, the artwork – of whatever form – came to life and truly performed. It wasn’t just a 2D painting, a musical phrase, or even a 3D sculpture, but there was another element that came into play. Something that went beyond the page or notes or form, but sprung to life.
How can one describe that other dimension? Usually this is the kind of moment that renders us both breathless and speechless. The most we can do is utter “That really spoke to me”.
And there’s such a beauty in the individuality and uniqueness of this experience. No one person will feel the exact same way. It’s intensely personal. It’s a secret conversation between artwork and audience; an invisible dialogue between art and heart. In such a moment, we might also say “that moved me”, suggesting that something within us has shifted. We won’t be the same again; it’s an experience that we will remember and that will shape the way we interact with the world around us. Our frame of reference, the particular set of beliefs or ideas on which we base our judgment of things, has been altered. Perhaps dramatically, perhaps almost imperceptibly; either way, the art has affected us.
Art is so often used to highlight social justice issues, because they can speak to people so powerfully. The statistics, facts, and case studies are brought to life in an interactive experience in which the audience is actively engaged. Even as a passive spectator, many of the senses, and usually the heart, are involved in its reception, responding to the storytelling transmitted through the art. Whether or not the piece “hits home” is a measure of success. And whether it moved the audience off to go and engage in the subject beyond the theatre/gallery/concert hall, another litmus test of effectiveness.
Art and spiritual experience are so interconnected. As the Creator, God is the best creative force out there. You only need to look at a beautiful sunrise, the feathers on a bird, or a stretch of ocean to see that his artistry knows no bounds. The intricate detail in every aspect of His Creation is awesome; no wonder artists are so inspired by the natural world and recognise the need to protect it. Moved by the beauty around them, great symphonies have been written; exquisite paintings emerged; poems exploring the wealth of the language to encapsulate thoughts, feelings, and an aesthetic.
And in the natural world, God speaks. So many Christians say that they connect best with God when out and about in nature; when the beauty of a view they’ve seen a thousand times over still manages to take their breath away and leave them uttering a prayer of thanksgiving, in awe of the Artist’s work.
God uses art to get our attention, and he uses creativity as an instrument through which meaning can flow, healing can be administered, and life-giving connections can be formed. Each one of us is creative; we are all made in his image and therefore we are all creative forces. We are all constantly creating stories, narratives, images, aesthetics; always exploring how to express ourselves to others. ‘All the world’s a stage’, so living is part of the biggest performance. But how to reconcile between being the ‘Created’ and the ‘Creative’? And ensure we feel grounded in this real-life performance so that it’s not all a one-dimensional show of appearances?
As we open ourselves to receive art, we must also open ourselves up to receive God. In the same way the art and drama speak to us and move us, God also speaks and moves among us. As the active audience to the natural world and a community of creatives made in God’s image, the communication channels must be ever flowing.
From a grounding in the Spirit, there will spring life-giving creativity. And through art, the incomprehensible and that which surpasses all understanding can be explored and expressed. In a way that is multi-dimensional, touches the heart, and transforms us from within.
When You send forth Your Spirit and give them breath, they are created, and You replenish the face of the ground. Psalm 104:30