When painting an interpretation of God, how would one determine they are talking about the same one?
Inspired by: Aldous Huxley’s On Art & Artists, Page 19 (On Tradition and Individual Style).
Huxley talks about the constraints of an artist’s materials in their own cultural environment. If they work with stone, they will see everything in stone. The man who works on creations with a hammer will seek to crush every imaginative thought they have. Likewise, the painter will view everything as a canvas instead.
The difference is that they will only look at these ONLY. This speaks then to the artistic and cultural depth of communities around the world given their technological advancement. The European who has conquered all can travel to all, and the village idiot who does not stray beyond the confines of their forest will witness the world as a giant biodome of trees and fauna.
But humanity, in all of its flavors, is not only flora and fauna. Humanity is greater - a combination of multitudes, a complexity of agreements and disagreements.
These ‘materials’ we speak of do not have to be tangible. They can be intangible understandings. Asians would think of harmony and saving face as a concept when painting something. Barely any art from this region would seek to challenge that, because that would be very un-Asian.
In general, we have a fear of isolating ourselves from our communities
It’s why the greatest artists sought to do something different from one another. Either prolifically (make more art and let it speak for itself), or go beyond the edge (challenge and deconstruct everything).
As an example, I can make art about the silence of Asian communities. People will be too scared to talk about sex, power dynamics, politics, feminism, to point fingers at one another and find out why we are wrong, and more. It doesn’t seem very Asian of me to do so.
But the mere thought of isolating ourselves is a natural fear that affects our ‘survival rate’. In past hunter-gatherer societies, this can mean certain death. We won’t have any support from our fellow men and women in terms of shelter, fire, and gathering food.
In the modern age, this is a cultural death: isolation means lesser social interaction, less of modern trust (this means trust that is better articulated in the modern context: agreements, contracts, promises, connections, etc. that are derived from the makings of the cultural context they exist in), greater irrelevance.
No one wants to be irrelevant. But they want to stand out.
There is no choice then. It is more about what you can do with your own fine self, and what you can do to stop being irrelevant.
do you seek to truly articulate what you witness in your visions, or do you pander to the reality of your fellow lesser brethren?
Lesser not in status, or way of life, or otherwise - lesser in their ability to see what you see, which is neither wrong or right ,but different.
But that is a reflection of you, not them: you then have a choice of making that reality if so.
Would they make God in their own vision, or God in the vision of their community?
The answer to this question is what sets the difference between good artists and great ones. Good artists pander to the understanding of those around them. Great artists express what is deemed their interpretation of god, but articulates it to the best of their ability to those around them.
it is the greatest form of respect to give your patrons the opportunity to catch up with your imaginations. It is a game, it is a challenge: to them, they are willing to kill time to understand you. A simple deduction is easy but boring. The silent gaze, the lifelong gears moving in one’s heads, the conclusive answer, the satisfaction of arriving at that point, the journey towards each stroke of the brush; You are writing a novel through art.
People want to be challenged to the best of their ability, but they want a minimum level of guidance through it. So your goal is to find the balance between that, not for every piece but for your overall journey.
Some pieces, maybe you’d like to pander. Others you may want to challenge the norms of the cultural constraints just a little bit. But once in a while, what you deem a masterpiece can be considered unreadable, surreal, too strange to comprehend in the eyes of manny. It’s Hard Mode for the most loyal of patrons.
Giving them that variety is what will attract them to you. And God deserves nothing but the greatest form of accessible complexity, so they can arrive at the same point that you have in all of your works.
Ironically, your body of work is a bible towards your interpretation of God. It’s only a matter of articulation. Your most loyal will catch up to you. Are you letting them to, is your choice to make.
An Artist’s God
The God of an artist is subjective to their own pursuit of art. Without having one, a higher power, they would not be bestowed the ability to imagine, or the ability to express, or the ability to desire something.
As much as a faith-based framework is taken to approach this question, there are logical rationales as to why this can be valid.
One, is that as most individual’s internal worlds or societies emerge, we subconsciously attribute that to a ‘higher power’. The closest default understanding of that is that there is something or someone higher in the social hierarchy than us that bestows us this gift, and that level of understanding is enough for us to act upon it. It’s a third-person POV way to give ourselves permission. We are our own Gods.
What is desire to an artist?
Desire to an artist is a mixture of hopes and tragedies. Hope in that there is something that they are born and brought into this world to do. Tragedy in that if they encounter any obstacle in the pursuit of arriving at that point, it will be a detriment to their wellbeing.
But yet they pursue. For brave are the ones who act despite the fear within them. Desire is what they see to point their bravery towards.
In moderation , this can be a good thing. Artists who have a desire to pursue something have shaped whatever that desire may be as a filter for their actions. They know that subconsciously, there is a preference towards a specific mission bestowed upon them by their principles. This way, all of their desires are valid and justified. They can choose to change mediums of art, they can choose to learn a new skill, but it is the same person with the same interests and the same likeness towards life: desire is malleable.
How does God look like to them?
It could be anything really. A totem, or an object of reverence to an artist could mean absolutely nothing to another. The one commonality between all of them is that all forms of God are coveted. There is no Anti-God. To recognize something or someone as such is to recognize their place in the assumed social hierarchy.
What about Religion?
Religion has nothing to do with this. You can have faith without religion. It’s questioning the foundations of belief, and that religion does not necessarily have to be a prerequisite for having faith in something.
What is stopping me from revering my own father as some sort of living god? What about cult leaders - how do they get people to put them on such high a pedestal?
Faith is a form of commitment embodied. You believe with your whole body. Leaning into it entirely, no hesitation. Really, we should be treating everything the same (how we do anything is how we do everything).
So where does an artist lie in the distance between a person and god?
They are translators of the ancient language of Belief. It could be that the one piece of art you made brings a viewer closer to their own perceived understanding of God. It could be something else. It could be that as they have such an adverse reaction to your interpretation that out of spite, they go and do something themselves.
But generally, they are translators. They do noting more than show you what they ‘see’. But what they see is an entire universe, a new paracosm that otherwise cannot be accessed. They are like gatekeepers to another galaxy, except that it can only be found in their own mind.
And what you do then is to find the artists whose universes and gods you find interesting, and learn their language. That’s all it is, a conversation. The only challenge is finding out what language they speak.