To Bring Heaven To Earth, By Brush
I have recently begun to study the different periods in art history. None have brought me to as much awe and admiration as the works seen in the Baroque period.
Most notably, I have grown to appreciate the works of the Italian painter Caravaggio (1571-1610).
His paintings are dramatic and display a mastery of creating colour and a contrast between light and dark.
Caravaggio’s depiction of the conversion of St Paul shows so powerfully the saint’s momentary frailty. In this way, St Paul’s humanity and impending sanctification is tangible.
Caravaggio, therefore, has done what most sacred artists hope to do: to help ordinary people like ourselves understand the movements within us and to contemplate the mystery of God.
This, of course, puts each artist on an uphill climb in which they hope to see a glimpse of the majesty of God at the summit. When the artist succeeds in this, he or she will then invite others to gaze upon this devotion to the divine.
It is my hope, for many of my future works, that even a dim light of the glory of God comes through. I want every viewer to be drawn in by the symphony of colours on the canvas. And when they hear the echoes of rouge, amber and emerald, they will be able to respond to the invitation of God.
Therein lies the pain of the pursuit. As artists, we are challenged to bring Heaven down to earth with paint and pencils.We are called to bring order to the chaos of oils, acrylics and pastels.
To aid us in this, it would do us creative people well to reflect on the Creation story in the book of Genesis. It is here that we learn how God separates light from dark, and overall how God brings order to chaos.
To know that our work will decorate homes—and in some cases chapels and cathedrals—adds an extra dose of pressure.
How does one show the infinite, the endless and the immaculate? How can we create art that summons the hearts of earth’s creatures to contemplate divine truths? Perhaps, only by the grace of God.
Those gifted with the ability to create beauty fear creating that which isn’t beautiful enough. There are long nights and long days. There are sketches made and sketches discarded. There is the feeling of inadequacy and the fear of failing to reach the heights of the old masters. But it would be a shame to let this bar us from attempting anything.
The Church’s eventful art history shows us just how impactful our art can be and why it is worth pursuing in spite of our fears.
St Peter’s basilica is a fitting example. Though the funding of this basilica was controversial, its sculptures and paintings draw thousands of visitors from around the world.
And what a moment it is when each tourist who came only to see fine art, contemplates very briefly the agony of Jesus in the garden, the scourging at the pillar, the crowning of thorns, the carrying of the cross, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus into Heaven.
Art, then, has done what holy words always tell: it has proclaimed the Gospel.