a Renaissance of
Art & Consciousness
Awaken the Senses, Intellect & Soul
For millennia, paintings, sculpture and architecture have been a means through which humans sought to understand their relationship with, and place in, the world. As a unique embodiment of human creative skill and Nature, Art brought hidden realities into visual and imaginative perception. Today, the challenges we face in modernity call for a renaissance, a rebirth, of our approach to art, enabling us to re-establish this vital and half- forgotten relationship more than ever. Art is not merely an object to be analysed, but stands as an interface between the ancient mystical traditions, the great philosophical questions, psychology and modern neuroscience. The words of John Ruskin go some way to expressing the often ineffable we sense when we encounter art, as well as the significance of the ideas and thoughts of civilisation which present themselves through art.
“Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts; the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.” John Ruskin
In Western history much of our deeper understanding of art has been lost since the Reformation and subsequent Enlightenment. Yet Western Art is brimming with an entire corpus of wisdom which can help us better understand ourselves while transforming our perceptions and actions beyond the art; from the deeply spiritual and soulful to the very practical. Art holds the capacity to open ways of knowing and seeing that have been lost while enabling a broadening of our perceptions of art beyond rational analysis, categories and styles. Engaging with art in these ways awakens dormant creativity and imagination and helps us navigate our way through an increasingly tunnel- visioned, reductionist world.
Great art is more than just cleverly arranged pigment or stone. The great buildings, paintings and statues that have arisen over centuries and still inspire wonder in us today, carry with them the essence of another time, of how we have seen ourselves in relationship to the world, while allowing us to glimpse the extraordinary and ineffable. And at the centre of it all, they tell a story about ourselves – and what it means to be human. They might have something important to tell us, if we stop for a moment and listen and look. Through human gesture, movement, subtlety, to excesses of pain and suffering, to spiritual transfigurations, from betrayal and death, to rebirth and renewal, from the every day to deep contemplation, from the serenity of symmetry in a classical temple to the soaring heights of a Gothic cathedral, we see our full human story played out in a visceral way, while the artist / architect seems to engage in something almost magical in order to do so. Art is not a dead object to be dissected, but is alive, possessing a vitality difficult to articulate in words. Works of art are, in the words of Dr Iain McGilchrist more like people, living beings, than objects, they are implicit and embodied, not ‘things’. But since they come to us without words, we have to cultivate different ways of seeing, knowing and listening in order to see them anew. It is this quality of attention which holds the power to not only change what we see in the art, but transform us and our world.