Thursday, November 10, 2016

Mystical Landscapes

Edvard Munch, The Sun, 1910-13

Lord of the Starfields, Ancient of Days,
Universe Maker, here's a song in your praise...
O love that fires the sun
Keep me burning...

Bruce Cockburn

I cycled to work this morning, stopping to cherish the sunrise along the Bay of Quinte. Ruth was leaving 45 minutes later, also cycling and we often compare what we saw and experienced with a quick text or two. Are these mystical experiences for us? That may sound grandiose, but the ride by the water is often the most spiritual aspect of our busy days. Sadly, when I get to work at the church there is usually little opportunity for the mystical or numinous.

On the weekend we visited the Art Gallery of Ontario and the current Mystical Landscapes exhibit. It is thoughtfully curated with acknowledgement that the natural world, or what Christians call Creation, touches the soul and inspires creativity, including artistic expression,

Some of the paintings were by artists quite familiar to me, including Paul Gaugin and Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet. Canadians such as Lawren Harris and Emily Carr were represented as well. Carr's painting Indian Church which depicts a modest, traditional white church enveloped in a swirling cathedral of trees is one of my favourites. Edvard Munch's The Sun (above) was a revelation.

There were also pieces by artists totally unfamiliar to me, but breathtaking in their cosmic originality. Wenzel Hablik's Starry Night (below) rivalled the one of Van Gogh's Starry Night's on display, even though visitors crowded around the latter. Van Gogh wanted to create a Cosmic Christ painting in which he is surrounded by stars but struggled with the composition and eventually gave up. The paintings we admire were his concession to his inability to portray Christ in this setting.

I encourage you to visit this exhibit, and ponder how God is revealed for you in Creation. I love the Carr painting because it has never been "either/or" for me. Christ is made known in the sanctuary of many places of worship, indoors and outdoors.


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