Art points to something beyond itself, toward “something more,” something that we sense in things and reveal through our pen or brushes, in our music or dance or writing.
What is this thing we glimpse in nature, in life itself, that so excites and inspires and compels us to re-create what we see in a form that we can share with others? Some see what art evokes, or points a finger toward, as the mystery in the midst of things.
“Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” -Rene Magritte.
“The artist’s function is to love the enigma. All art is this: love which has been poured out over enigmas – and all works of art are enigmas surrounded and adorned by love.” – Rainer Maria Rilke
“The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” -Francis Bacon
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious; It is the source of all true art and science.” – Albert Einstein
We don’t have to be artists to see it and respond to it. But artists are those who try to capture it in such a way that others see it, and feel it, too.
An example is the painting at the top of this page by Terrill Welch. She blogs about her art and the creative process at Creative Potager, and generously allowed me to use her artwork here. The painting above was inspired by following scene shown here in a photograph.
The artist’s painting brings to the surface something that had lain dormant within the natural scene that the photograph captures. It points to something beyond the original, to something more, something the artist sensed, and the receptive viewer can also sense though her work. We may each interpret what this “something more” is in different ways.
Perhaps we perceive a hushed tranquility, or wondrous luminosity not apparent in the original scene. Perhaps the colors of the sky and sea in the painting, the way they blend together and echo each other, elicit an underlying sense of unity or connectedness. Or the gently flowing lines of the hills and those rounds of dark isles lying beneath evoke a soothing sense of sympathy.
Or perhaps we see something more tumultuous going on. Perhaps the tumbling texture of the brush strokes, each unique, each saturated with hues that complement and oppose each other, reveal an intricacy and liveliness that lies beneath what seems to be so simple and still.
Perhaps we see how all of this—the unity and sympathy and complexity–plays together, and we see in that something of the mystery in the midst of things.
Making art, or responding to it, takes us out of ourselves, our ordinary perceptions of reality, while at the same time, deepening what it means to truly be ourselves.
Carl Jung calls it “the state of ‘participation mystique.” He writes: “The secret of artistic creation and the effectiveness of art is to be found in a return to the state of ‘participation mystique’ – to that level of experience at which it is man who lives, and not the individual.”
Joseph Campbell explains further: “The agony of breaking through personal limitations is the agony of spiritual growth. Art, literature, myth and cult, philosophy, and ascetic disciplines are instruments to help the individual past his limiting horizons into spheres of ever-expanding realization.”
Art does that—it breaks through, as with an ice-ax, what Franz Kafka once called “the frozen sea inside us.” And doing so, it sets us free to explore that “something more” we seek, or the mystery within the midst of things.
Laurie Buchanan said:
Terrill Welch is one of my dear friends. So it was with great surprise and pleasure that I found her work here in your lovely post.
What a small world we live in! Her work was the perfect illustration for ideas I had been exploring.
Juliet Speaks said:
This is all so true. The thirst for knowledge, to break through and past the limitations. To just learn and grow and see or realise something that others can see. Very well put and excellent choice of quotes 🙂
Thank you Juliet! I am so glad you stopped here.
Terrill Welch said:
Deborah I had forgotten our conversation and came to this post with fresh eyes, devoid of expectation or caution. Like Laurie I was surprised – pleasantly so! I am honoured to have my work and process demonstrate the idea you are exploring.
It’s wonderful when our posts can inspire each other. I love your work.
Terrill Welch said:
Reblogged this on Creative Potager and commented:
With fresh eyes, devoid of expectation or caution…
Arrived here thanks to Terrill’s mention on FB.
This is a wonderful, thought provoking (or perhaps, simply inspiring) post. Thank you for this.
Thank you for reading and responding. It means so much.
Reblogged this on WildThangMonkkey and commented:
I am ex-Coast Guard and oh, how I do love the sea’… your friend in the pen/Gary Fields
Oh, I love the sea too! Thank you for re-blogging.
This post really speaks to me. I feel, as a writer, as if it’s all about the mysteries. Thank you for pointing that out.
Thank you Luanne. I always love it when you visit here.
Brenda Moguez (@BrendaMoguez) said:
Would it be rude to cut and past Luanne’s response to your post as mine? Probably. I marvel at what’s behind the artist’s vision. Did something good or bad happen on the day he/she created something. What brought the artist to the canvas, the clay, stone, or the blank page? What keeps them inspired? All I know for sure is the mystery behind the art is what keeps my mind bubbling and wondering.
Yes, the mystery is what keeps me going too. I’m so glad you came here and shared your thoughts.
You captured perfectly what an artist does; and the gift they are to our experience of life. I am blessed to live with a young man, now reaching his teenage years, that was born with such a soul. May there always be those who view life from the artist’s perception.
Thank you for that. All the best to you and your son.
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so perfectly said … art breaks us free and allows us to explore.
Like the photograph / LOVE the painting!
So glad you enjoyed!
Alex Hurst said:
Wonderful post, as always. You bring so much knowledge into your posts. Thank you for sharing!
I so appreciate that! Thank you.
laura bruno lilly said:
‘Making art, or responding to it, takes us out of ourselves, our ordinary perceptions of reality, while at the same time, deepening what it means to truly be ourselves.’
Love this post…I’ll add my two cents: allow the terms ‘art and artist’ to include all of the arts and this expands the message that much further!
Claudine @ CarryUsOff Books said:
I love the Kafka quote and Terrill’s painting. It contains more layers than what the photograph tells us. I’m off to check out her blog!
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