One of the artists I most admire is Antoni Tapies. He is an amazing Spainish expressionist, and his works are full of texture, and symbols. He is a mystic, and his spirituality is the fire behind his work. I would strongly suggest seeing any of his works in person if you ever have the opportunity, pictures just do not do them justice.
In one of his essays he talks about the role of artist in society, particularly ancient and eastern societies. The artist was considered a shaman of sorts. The job of the artist was to take the unseen, or the heavenlies and make it seen. To interpret spiritual truth for the people. In our western culture this was true as well, and artists were to be of exceptional virtue, even in the Christian context.
However, as the "power structure" of the church became more and more the only benefactor of the arts they were not only able to decide what was painted, but how it was painted. And as the only ones buying art, the artists were forced to submit. At this point in art history, what became more important was the craft, or technique of the artist. The spiritual strength of the artist, or their giftings in seeing, were not important. Just their ability to reproduce images.
As art was changed by photograghy, and more abstract forms gradually appeared we find both a resurgence of the former trend, and an amazing vacume. Much art is now a contest of vileness, though some of these artists assert they are just mirroring the vileness of our current world, and that may be a fair prophetic point. It would seem however, that particularly in the church there is a call for not only good technical art and artists, but those prophetic voices to come to the fore. For those of amazing charecter and true spiritual depth, to use their creative drive to illustrate clearly the majesty of the kingdom of God, to capture its depth and beauty and justice. To be dangerous art, to be art that calls us to deeper places.
Tapies tells the story of a young caligrapher in Japan. He is such an outstanding artist at only 18 years of age, that he is granted the opportunity to see the revered works of a monk at a local monastery. These works were said to be of such amazing value that they were kept locked in a secret room, and locked in a special holding case. When he saw the paintings, he was amazed at the roughness, and lack of particular beauty of technique, they were not great paintings, but they were moving none the less. At that moment he understood that what was wanted, was for a man to be of outstanding charecter, not just outstanding technique. He stopped painting at that moment and dedicated himself to the study of Budhism and to becoming a monk of highest quality. WHen he picked up his brush years later, he became one of the most respected artists of his time.
This is what I wish, I pray my life would become of such quality, that my work would express the Kingdom of God, and not my own ideas.