Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Art and Science of Religion

Universal Genius - from leonardodavinci.net

The Art Institute of Chicago has an article entitled The Enduring Relationship of Science and Art on it's website which is adapted from a lecture by Robert Eskridge titled “Exploration and the Cosmos: The Consilience of Science and Art.”

I'm going to quote from it heavily in this posting, in support of the idea that art, science and religion are nowhere near as incompatible as many would have you believe today and that science, art and engineering naturally overlap. They involve ideas, theories, and hypotheses which are prototyped and tested in places where thought and action come together; model shops, laboratories and studios.

Artists, scientists and engineers are investigators. They study people and things and then transform what they learn into something else. In ancient Greece, the word for art was techne, from which our modern words technique and technology are derived—terms that are equally well applied to artistic, engineering, scientific and even religious practices.

Leonardo da Vinci is known as an artist whose works were informed by scientific investigation. He observed the world closely, studied physiology and anatomy in order to create convincing images of the human form. He believed that the moral and ethical meanings of his paintings would emerge through the accurate representation of human gestures and expressions. For Leonardo, science and art were different paths that led to the same destination—a higher spiritual truth. His extraordinary drawings are revered as examples of the Renaissance concept of the integration of all disciplines.

Leonardo wrote; "We, by our arts may be called the grandsons of God."

The Astronomer and the Geographer - Vermeer

The Astronomer and The Geographer, paintings by Johannes Vermeer, are other examples of the connection between science and art. Equally interested in this world and the larger universe, the 17th century Dutch were intent on both looking and investigating. It was here the microscope and telescope were first developed. Vermeer’s paintings celebrate science, the work of artists and the materials of the world.  These paintings represents the link between science and art by demonstrating the combined interest in finely crafted objects and scientific systems, such as cartography and astronomy.

On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt - Monet

The effects of color, light and time were key elements of the works of Degas, van Gogh, Renoir, Gauguin, and Monet. 

Monet suggested that our sense of our physical environment changes continuously with our shifting perceptions of light and color. On the Bank of the Seine, Bennecourt, captures a fleeting “impression” of the landscape through loose brushwork and composition. It expresses feelings, even before the mind labels, identifies, and converts images into memory.  Monet’s captures the oscillation between impression and perception in an instant; the shifting of light and color across the landscape with the passage of time.

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte
As an art student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris, Georges Seurat studied the physics of color, with help from French chemists who had recently developed premixed paints, conveniently packaged in tubes, and synthetic pigments such as ultramarine blue, which previously were very expensive.  As poor artists, neither Seurat nor Monet could have created their blue-filled, experimental works without the availability of scientifically and commercially produced and packaged paint.

Pointillism was in a way the forerunner of the full color digital display. Up close, the surface of Seurat's paintings contain thousands of painted dots and dashes, discrete areas of color. He placed dots of complementary colors next to each other. At a distance, they interact to create vibrant blended colors and larger, whole forms, representing the range of the visible spectrum.

Picasso's Portraits of Kahnweiler and Vollars

Picasso combines took Monet’s ideas about the contingency of time and Seurat’s theory about the perception of discrete elements and pushed them into distortion of space, breaking up the figures and objects, even varying the points of view within the same image. Painted just a few years after Albert Einstein published his theory of relativity, understanding Picasso’s Cubist style, like understanding Einstein, requires multi-disciplinary perspectives to be fully comprehended.

The Tetons and the Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The invention of photography in the middle of the 19th century was a technological breakthrough, both artistically and scientifically. Photography - Light Writing - captures and presents the physical world accurately and quickly, but also the emotional - even spiritual worlds. Ansel Adams' majestic vistas of mountains and rivers embraced the bond between man and nature while recording with astonishing technical accuracy the effects of light and atmosphere.

The ancient Egyptian sky goddess, Nut, arching over the earth.

This connection between art, science and religion is evidenced as far back as Egypt, preserved in the pyramids and hieroglyphics, illustrating again how art, science and religion co-exist in an enduring, evolving, relationship.

Next up; The bridges between feeling, thinking and doing.

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