A friend of our stopped by last night and I was in the kitchen painting. He said, "You know what I don't like about painting? It's so imprecise." I had to laugh. Well, he's an engineer. I can see how my impreciseness may bug him.
But it did bring up an argument that has been going on in my head for years and years and has been more on my mind lately because my pastor was giving sermons on beauty and also because I have been trying to take more time lately to develop my own painting and drawing skills. What is art? Is anything with a frame on it art? Just because it's in your head and you give form to it with some creative process, and it serves no functional purpose otherwise (as opposed to invention, like the invention of a can opener, say.) and you put lighting on it and ask people to come look at it, does that make it "art"? Can a Christian use abstraction as art ever? If you say no, (and some Christians do) then is copying as nearly as you can to the real life subject "art"? Is absolute skill in accurate drawing the highest skill an artist can develop?
Anyway, when I was younger I read quite a bit of Mennonite stuff. I read at one point an article about Christian art and they made an assertion that Christians in drawing and painting were to accurately portray God's creation. To do otherwise would be to set oneself up higher than God in a way, to portray a reality different than the one he has portrayed. So not only would complete abstraction be out but also tweaking reality into something that couldn't be, like painting apples blue. I think Francis Schaeffer also saw abstraction in art as a progression in man's rebellion against God in the western culture. Someone can correct me if I am wrong, it's been a long time since I've read "How Then Shall We Live".
But Francis Schaeffer was a premillennialist. His view of society was that man would be in rebellion and so the way he would interpret new cultural shifts and such would be in line with his eschatology.
But I wonder if abstraction is actually an expression of rebelling against God in and of itself. It seems to me that before the invention of the camera the primary purpose of art would be to reproduce images one wanted to carry through life with them, even if they couldn't be there or have that person forever. Abstraction would have been an annoyance! I mean if you wanted a portrait of your wife you wanted a picture of your wife! But since the invention of the camera people can have those pictures. So what is the point of the artist now? Is there one? Or has the camera replaced him?
At least I know that as an artist I spent some years trying to represent things as I saw them and these are the questions I asked myself as I drew. Personally, it seems to me that if a person is drawing to accurately represent something, even if it's something beautiful, you might as well use a camera. A camera will always be able to be more accurate (even though it does have some distortions of it's own.) and photography can glorify and enhance a subject just like an artist can.
So, then. Is abstraction a rebellion against God? Or is it a natural shift in the art world as artists work to redefine their craft in the face of technological advancement? Is it a sign of regress in culture? Or actually a result of progress?