Art also importantly gives us beauty. Beauty is a most important constituent in art, alongside meaning, and adds that more instantaneous dimension to the absorption of a work of art, rather in the way that we add sugar to our coffee to make it more palatable. It is like a visceral inroad into the full appreciation of an art work, as if a physical window is opened as soon as we draw in that first breath of beauty from a work. I cannot go into a deep philosophical discussion of the appreciation of beauty here, but as far as our understanding of beauty is concerned, and its role in the art work, I feel that it is a major constituent in the total understanding of a piece of art, as it is often the first hung that we appreciate in it, and having been drawn in the work then offers other intellectual and possibly spiritual questions that continue to attract us.
I would hope that the constant pursuit of beauty could be seen as a prime function of our lives, in any form that it takes. This would raise our understanding of our lives, of ourselves, above the merely pragmatic and physical, but I suspect that we cannot do this all the time when we are living our day to day lives, but here, as in everything, a balance is called for between the spiritual and the physical. Beauty can be lots of things and in lots of things: beauty can be dazzling prettiness; beauty can be understood as goodness; as teaching; as giving to others; as caring; as being joyful in oneself; as being truthful; as being gentle, patient, generous, kind, considerate, etc.. It can be what we make of it, although we do have to accept that what we want it to be can only be beauty if it has that selfless positiveness that lies at its heart.
Certainly music has beauty, or perhaps I should say that some music has beauty, in the same way that some art has beauty, and it is up to the listener, or viewer, to find that part of the art work that is beautiful. It may only be a certain portion of the art work, but we should nevertheless appreciate it, however small, and we should appreciate they way that it attracts us, and think about it’s pull for us, for in that questing spirit shall we find further beautiful things in the work. Perhaps it is a criterion with which we can total up the effect of the art work upon us: this work is entirely beautiful in a sensuous manner, whilst this work has a stark beauty which gives way to an appreciation of its form and message. Beauty, I think, is that undefinable glow that we feel with a work of art that touches us in a spiritual manner, and offers us it’s hand in drawing us in to the greater understanding of art.
For me, this is a creed which can give substance and answers to all those questions about life that we ask ourselves, and it does so in a practical way through art. The pursuit of beauty, and in a more general way, creativity, gives me that sense of fulfilment that I need for my own spiritual well being. It becomes the reason for what I do and what I am, and I cannot think of another reason that fits my life so well. I think beauty, and its creation and appreciation, allows us to be confident enough to take upon our own shoulders the responsibility of our own destiny, and all that that entails, without recourse to religion, which forces us to put ourselves in another’s hands. No, we must stand up for ourselves: it is our life and we must solve its problems. One way is through art, because it has meaning and beauty.
As St David said: “Be joyful, keep your creed.” ( My amendments)