I won’t talk long. I just say that to reassure you because this is a church building and you’re used to things going on. But I’d like to just say something about the statement that I made on this particular exhibition.
There was a lady painter, my wife and I knew quite well, who always when she presented her latest piece of work used say “Isn’t it beautiful”. I don’t know whether you’ve come across people who show you their work and tell you it’s beautiful. I suppose I’m one of those people who immediately responds by saying “If I need to be told it’s beautiful then perhaps it isn’t really’’.
I’ve gradually, as time has gone by, modified my thinking on this score. And the reason is that when you are painting, when you’re writing poetry, when you’re composing music, whatever you’re creativity is (and I think that includes all of us actually), whatever you’re creating there’s some sense in which when you allow the creative process to work properly. When you don’t assume control of it, when you don’t use it as a show of cleverness, as you’re working you realise that first of all this isn’t entirely due to you, what’s happening. And there is something, whatever you attribute it to, there is something beyond you that is part of this process. And another thing that happens is that, you realise that not only is the process is not entirely under your control or of you. What is being produced is a being which is not just self expression, not just what you are projected onto canvas or into poetry or into music. It has a life of its own.
When you’ve listened to the work of composers who've produced music at a very early age. And there are some remarkable example of that. And you hear in some way it starts to tap the depth of a mature person’s experience of life. And you think, yeah, but this is a little kid of nine. How does that come about? Does he know all this stuff? The answer is, no he doesn’t know all this stuff. Not at nine or ten but that art is actually bigger than the individual and it’s not a possession or just the creation of the individual who is involved in the process of it becoming what it is.
In that sense, I don’t feel entirely comfortable with it I have to admit, but in that sense our friend who declared it to be beautiful actually was less off the mark than I used to think. Because at least she was recognising the something that was not of her in what was being made and she could legitimately declare it to be beautiful. And for me, when I’m painting that translates into my feeling of thankfulness. And I’m working away and I don’t know what it’s going to be, and as it emerges I find myself saying ‘thankyou’. And for a few moments wondering at the thing that’s happened in front of me. So I’ll stop but just to leave it at saying for Christians perhaps, that’s more explicable, knowing that we are made in the image of God who is creator and making creators too.