There is something about being at the beginning of a New Year that inspires me to go back to the very beginning. Like, Genesis 1. This time, I was struck by the Creator's delight in filling spaces with life. Faced with an empty canvas -“without form and void” - He first delineated the zones. Stretches out the horizons, sets up proper work lighting to govern the project, commands that these blank white spaces be filled. And we're talkin' really full.
“Let birds fly above,” and not one corner of the expansive sky was untouched by feather-tips and the joyful swooping of new wings.
Another corner of the workshop deals with clays and muds. “Let the earth bring forth living creatures,” and His command causes the earth to bear beasts and reptiles and dinosaurs and every possible incarnation of life that is bound by gravitational decree to their origins. “And God made the beasts.”
Finally, one last glorious creature to be sculpted with His own hand. Someone in His own image. A reflection of His eternal authority and dominion, but limited to the created earth. Mankind. Man is not only physical matter, helping to fill in the gaps of God’s joyous, swarming created world - he is spiritual. The filling of space takes on an dimension beyond that of the material.
And what is the command to the trembling throng, to all of those flocks, schools, herds, packs, bands, troops, colonies, armies, prides, mobs, hives, litters, bevies, rookeries, droves, warrens, broods, and pods? Above all, to man and woman with their gentle rule?
“Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth!”
In striking contrast to all I imagined above, the current trends in art seem to witness to a certain horror, or at least avoidance, of swarming life. Everything is clean lines, empty spaces. I heard that during the birth of Impressionism, the artists (especially Renoir) pushed for a change in exhibition style. Traditionally, the Salon stacked paintings that were shown one right on top of the other. Renoir insisted on space – he wanted each work of art to gain individual attention. Aesthetically, this was an undeniably welcome change; the old way was confusing to the eye and too busy. But I wonder. Was it perhaps witnessing to certain follies and philosophies that came to fruition later?
As in now. When I visit the Pompidou, for example, where the enormous amounts of space are remarkable. You have to travel a long journey from one installation to another. When we reach it, it is often just another representation of empty space. Don't get me wrong - there are parts of this funky place that I find very satisfying. But the stretches of nothing are not one of them. I feel the same way when I traipse over to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France to study a few times a week. There is a similar thought process laid the foundations here. The award-winning building is simply clean, stark lines, surrounding long stretches of….nothing. There are hedges, but they are contained within cages. I don't have any photos to prove it to you for the moment, but I am not kidding. Cages.