I found it interesting reading through Rowan Williams highlights of Maritain’s themes on art. Williams explains how “art is an action of the intelligence and makes claims about how things are.” Art is the mind focused on action (the practical intellect). I feel like sometimes in our culture art is not valued as highly as it should be and is usually not categorized under the label of intelligence. Art is a form of intelligence no doubt, but for some reason, subjects such as science and math always seem to take precedence over art in our culture. Perhaps this is due to the question of what is considered art today? While contemporary art can be engaging and inventive, I feel that some contemporary art has become vague and sometimes thoughtless art and has pushed the borderline of art further and further resulting in a disillusionment of art. Can art be literally anything? Should it be? Has art lost its purpose when people randomly throw together items and label it art or draw a single line on a blank canvas labeling it a masterpiece? Really?
1) Blank Canvas- Museum of Modern Art
When you think about it, art should be something unique and powerful and it is very different than other subjects because every artwork that an artist produces makes claims about the world and reflects the worldview of the artist that creates it. He goes on to say that art is meant to be thought provoking and to be “absorbed by intelligence, rather than a tool for use in a project larger than itself.” Art is made with intelligence for the purpose of being contemplated by intelligence and “the artist does not set out to change the world, but-if we can manage the paradox- to change it into itself”. While art represents and reflects the world it does not imitate. This reminds me of a famous painting by surrealist painter Rene Magritte. His image is a painting of a pipe with the words “this is not a pipe” written beneath it. Magritte gets right to the heart of the matter. Although his statement may seem ridiculous it is true. It is a painting of a pipe and not the real thing.
2) Rene Magritte- This is not a pipe
Every piece of work created makes a statement about the world and every statement, whether it is realized or not is striving for the infinite. Maritian explains how we are finite beings striving and creating to “obtain beauty” but we are always unsuccessful. Because we are finite we cannot comprehend the infinite although we get a glimpse of it in the beauty of the world around us. As artists we reflect the world around us but do not imitate. We cannot create the world again or even a single blade of grass with our own efforts or power, but we can reflect the world through our paintings, drawings, or graphic design. The “wound of knowledge” as Williams’ explains is we see a glimpse of the greatness and infinite transcendence of God and we also see how finite we as human beings are. The purpose of art should open up knowledge otherwise unavailable and invite contemplation as well as action.
Williams, Rowan. Grace and Necessity Reflection on Art and Love. Morehouse: 2005. Print.