03 March 2017

TRANSCENDENTAL BEAUTY and GOTHIC ART

This is an excerpt from my Lecture Heavenly Outlook.



Truth and Good, those things that sacred art intends to communicate, are transcendental; they are names of God. According to Dionysius, the author of The Divine Names, Beauty is another:
The Beautiful which is beyond individual being is called Beauty because of that beauty bestowed by it on all things, each in accordance with what it is. It is given this name because it is the cause of the harmony and splendor in everything, because like a light it flashes onto everything the beauty-causing impartations of its own wellspring ray.... It is forever so, unvaryingly, unchangeably so, beautiful not as something coming to birth and death, to growth or decay, not lovely in one respect while ugly in some other way. It is not beautiful now but otherwise then.... It is not beautiful in one place and not so in another, as though it could be beautiful for some and not for others.... It is the great creating cause which bestirs the world and holds all things in existence by the longing inside them to have beauty.
Sacred art has a permanent content that is knowable from tradition. The art called Gothic, which began in the twelfth century, is fully traditional; its makers did not predicate their originality on a rejection of the art of the past. Rather, they put it into order and expressed it more clearly. Gothic art is the visual equivalent of a medieval encyclopedia. It is as complete and disciplined a system as Byzantine iconography, but aligned to the Latin liturgy and the Latin church fathers. This is why I make it the basis of my own artwork.

I do not think of Gothic as a mere historic style belonging to a certain time and place; that would make it a very boring thing. Rather, I think of it as the best example of an art made according to Catholic principles - principles that are always and everywhere true. They are not merely useful for creating sacred art as it was during certain centuries of European history; rather, they are useful for creating sacred art in any place or time, including our own.

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Works quoted or referenced:

Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, translated by Colm Luibheid, (New York: Paulist Press, 1987).

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