When calamity strikes, people often ask themselves where is God? We also witness immense cruelty, and we wonder how could God allow such behavior? If God does allow such behavior, what does it mean? The short answer is that I do not fully know but have a few thoughts about seeing or finding God. For Christians God is personified in Jesus. It is easy to feel a distance from the historical person and challenging to understand a spiritual communion with him. Through a combination of chance and effort (perhaps divine intervention) I found a song and later a Sunday reading that gave me a vision, if not a greater connection to God. Instinctively when I heard the song I made an image with a bit of the lyric in the image.
Somewhat dissatisfied with the outcome of the image. A few weeks later I was struck by a bible reading that gave me a different sort of vision. I saved the text on my phone and copied it below.
John 4:11-16 11 My dear friends, if God loved us so much, we too should love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another God remains in us and his love comes to its perfection in us. 13 This is the proof that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us a share in his Spirit. 14 We ourselves have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world. 15 Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God. 16 We have recognized for ourselves, and put our faith in, the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.
The Bible passage complemented but also greatly transcended my drawing. Through the text, I could see God as manifest in our friendship. If God is within us and we make God’s love available to others, then others will see God’s work. The challenge it seems is allowing ourselves to be open enough and fearless enough to trust one another. Another challenge is to be mindful of our friendships. It easier to forget then it is to remember the truths that buoy us through the tempests.
A switch occurs and a light goes on. It takes a fraction of a second. The fact that it works is immediate and clear. However, what does the light reveal, what is in the darkness, and where does the light’s energy come from? The fact that illumination occurred is a simple observation, while the meaning and science of light is an expansive subject.
I made a drawing akin to the act of switching on a light. Likewise, the drawing was to be simple (i.e. providing directness and a demonstrative outcome without being overly labored). While some of these goals were attained, I found that simplicity was an abstract idea about where we stop looking or investigating and where we let complexity rest. If one compared two examples (e.g. a drawing of a light on and off) one could make an assumption or judgement about which is simpler.
Simplicity requires a reference. It is the comparison that allows for an accurate judgement. However, a judgement is not always easy. Because constraint is a key indicator of simplicity, I remain unconvinced that simplicity is synonymous with minimalism. Where simplicity requires us to stop, the minimalist impulse encourages us to look in an expansive way with less. Minimalism shows us that the criterion to make a judgement about simplicity can be too simple. In other words, what is simple is not always so simple.
It may appear like simplicity is being disparaged or an impossibility. However, simplicity can bring enhancement and order where there are challenges. When engineers and computer scientists create a structure, it may require complexity. However, the goal is not complexity. Rather, the goal is to make the complex organized, manageable, and thus simpler. On a personal level simplicity is important because we need to know the limits. When an activity adversely effect another activity, eventually we need to stop one of the pursuits for the sake of simplicity. This judgement is not often easy and requires case by case reflections to reach the best balance.
With regard to a balance, looking at my drawing, I wonder if I passed the simplicity test? The answer is that the light works, but the process and results are not so simple. It is a mix, and this is what provides a small measure of character.
I previously wrote about Św. Szymon Słupnik (en. Saint Simeon Stylites), with the intent of expanding on the subject. My son’s name is Szymon. In Poland, where he was born, names usually corespond with a Catholic Saint. Each Saint has a designated day on the Catholic calendar and that becomes one’s “name day”. While there are several noteable Saint Simons, the one I was looking for and previously wrote about was Saint Simon Stylites (Św. Szymon Słupnik in Polish). I found at least one reference that this Simon is celebrated on January 6th. With the 6th in mind, I made an interpretation of the painting of Saint Simon previously found.
The vector artwork above began with an ink drawing. Later it was scanned. Color, additions, and compositional changes were made in the program Inkscape.
While the name day date was not as precisely determined as the birthday, I can tell Szymon “happy name day”. I hope this is something he can remember.
The drawing below was an accident. It was made at a time in the night when fatigue overtakes the body and mind. What started as a drawing of a walnut began to look like something else. Later a background was created and a note about a 2:30pm appointment was retained. This experience of happy or curious accidents building upon each other reminded me of travels where curious monuments and markers appear. While I might forget most of the details of a trip, I would not forget a strange door that leads directly into a mountain.
After walking around the village in Poland, where I live, I could spot a few examples of unusual landmarks. The first image, while not very peculiar in Poland, looked strange to me. It is a man-made nest for Storks. This is part of a strategy in Europe to protect the species.
The second image, seen below, appears to be an abandoned swimming pool. Because of age (likely built during communism) and disrepair, a range of color is revealed. However, I can’t help but wonder what it was like when it was in perfect working order.
With much planning for a sense of sublime order, we ought to feel grateful for the oddities we find. Without such contrasts we might be stuck in a sublime sense of sameness (i.e. happiness in a world of perceived order). However, this mindset remains an illusion.
When I was eleven years old, I thought I wanted to be an architect. I was attracted to building, materials, and the feeling of being in a place. However, I did not know what an architect did aside from make plans. Although, I lost the desire to be an architect, I still feel connected to the feeling that architecture evokes. I am aware how these shapes, ornament, and colors help form my perspective.
A building can hold and reveal stories and is a place to look out of and through. In the example above, I continue to examine Italian Rennaisance architecture. Here I fashioned a drawing after a domed building inspired by Andrea Palladion. While I am merely interpreting or making a derivative version of a building, I am also aware that art reveals more than one subject, and the inescapable subject is the medium itself. For example the act of painting always reveals the language and construction of painting. I realize now that I am also attracted to the structure and planning of architecture and perhaps this is what led me to study printmaking. Although different discipline, making prints required step by step planning and an exacting sensibility a kin to the architectural process.
While I have gained great pleasure from making prints and it has been an important component of my art, the means of its production has proven more and more ineffective when compared with digital rivals that tap into the same esthetic. Without a studio I can use vector graphics to prepare a range of marks equivalent to what I would have previously carved for a relief print. I can make blocks of color similar to the stencils made for screen printing. I can even use bitmap in photoshop to approximate touche washes used in lithography. Additionally, with a digital illustration, I have the freedom to test and make adjustments with less effort.
Because vector illustration can approximate printmaking, does this mean that myself or others should quit making prints? Probably not. However, it becomes increasingly apparent that one’s process may outlive its usefulness. This is worth investigating in much the same way we ought to consider the value of razing an old building to replace it with something new. Sometimes we have regrets and at other times the new results are an improvement.