Take a Look at Art

Paintings of landscapes, fruit, and portraits, bronze or stone sculptures of people and shapes; is this what you think of when you hear the word “art”? Or maybe you think of the crayon drawings you did when you were in grade school? These things do come to mind when we mention art, but if that is all, then we are being deceived. If we stop there, then art seems like something that doesn’t really concern us anymore, unless we study it in school or visit are museums. But we must consider art because when we understand what it is and involves, then we will also see the implications and calling this has for us as Christians. Let us consider art then.

To begin with, the landscapes and portraits we know to be art are indeed that, but it is much more than something that’s pleasing to look at or an attempt to reproduce nature. It is first of all, and most importantly, a means to glorify our Creator. We may do that by painting God’s creation, thereby appreciating and rejoicing in His work, or by making art out of gratitude for what God has done for us, etc. Then we must learn also how exactly to glorify God in making art. Part of this involves using certain rules or principles of design such as unity, balance, and center of interest. For instance, a work of art that has a center of interest is not busy or chaotic.

But art has to do with more than just principles of design.

That art must praise our Lord leads us to another consideration; art is a means of communication. An artwork must not only please the eye, but it also must say that God is God. Art says something just like the words on this page are telling you something. When you see the letters C-A-T, those letters look nothing like a real cat, but you know that C-A-T is a symbol for cat. Often art is simpler than that, for a picture of a tree could be meant to be exactly that—a tree, but maybe not. In a painting, a flourishing tree could mean life, and a dead tree could mean death. But art can communicate in even less obvious ways than that. For instance, a color such as red can symbolize war or anger for us consciously, but it also can do that without us having to think about it. If we would walk into a room that was completely painted blood red, we would immediately feel a certain atmosphere, and we probably wouldn’t feel very comfortable there. You see, art, in its use of color, size, and subject, can communicate a feeling, atmosphere, or mood which sometimes we can’t even put into words. The point of all of this is that art communicates in various ways, and in whatever way it does this, it should be doing so according to Scripture and the glory of God.

Now that we’ve seen how art must obey the principles of design and how it communicates, let us also see the implications of this. We know that we must live separately from the world, and this applies to us in art too, for we must make and view art to the glory of God, whereas the world does it to the glory of man. In fact, some secular art is so evil it actually glorifies the devil. We must know this when we see it so that we can turn and flee from it. And more can be said about this too, but now let us look at it, not so much from the point of view of fine art, but popular art as well.

By popular art I mean things like popular music, the art used in advertising, and even the design of your furniture and dishes. We’re in contact with this kind of art every day, and not only should the principles of design be applied to this art too, but also we had better be aware of what it’s communicating to us. Take for example advertisements. So many bombard us (this itself shows how materialistic our age is), and advertisers use any means they can to get our attention, especially playing on our lustful flesh. We must be aware of this and pray to be kept from those subtle attacks of the devil.

But now apply this to yourself too. What do the clothes you wear tell other people? Does the way your room is decorated communicate anything? You see, in a broad sense this all has to do with art, because art has to do with what we perceive. Look around you—does what you see tell others you are a pilgrim? Also, in the area of art do you use all the means you have to praise God? Painting, sculpture, architecture, music, and poetry; all of these things provide excellent means to glorify God. Art is a gift of God, and we must not neglect it, but use it wisely and beautifully in praise of Him. Consider art then, understand that it is used to communicate, and in that be ye separate and serve the Lord.