Thursday, January 20, 2011

Makoto Fujimura

Makoto Fujimura

I've watched this video about seven times now and did a short presentation on it for Eng. Comp II. The problem with the presentation was that I thought the students knew what their assignment (writing an outline of a version of a gospel out of the 4 gospels) was and they didn't. So the presentation was modified suddenly at the last minute but I wanted to throw up some of the better snippets. Mostly because Mako's (as he is referred to in the video) painting(s) are tremendous on every level and more people need to spend more time staring and thinking about his works.

This video shows a different way of looking/interacting/reading/seeing (at) the Gospels
(This bit was pitched to the student when I thought they knew what the assignment was.) Anyone has access to the same materials as the artist’s/Mako’s raw materials and therefore could, w/ everything else being equal, theoretically/conceivably make these paintings or similar paintings. The materials are something that we all have access to. To a certain extent this is where words overlap where we all have access to the words/text and the method/how they are utilized/context is what gives their meaning or their truth. In this assignment you are taking prepared materials (the Gospels) and manipulating them into different shapes or lines based on what already exists in the text but that you are causing to realize or bring to the surface in a similar way as the possibility(ies) of the paint in a porcelain bowl is not realized until it meets the canvas as guided by the training/expertise/vision of the artist.

What's interesting about this video and illustrations of the text is that while these images are not necessarily direct portraits there are specific aspects/reasons that Mako states on why these paintings were rendered the way they were. Non-representational does not (have to) mean random or chaotic in the negative sense.
There is order and purpose, guidance and practice, hope and creativity even in non-representational works.
And where Alissa Wilkinson's comments come in about Christianity as the big capital C Christianity where we have historically avoided the education process of learning about art and its connection to truth and worship and belief. I do think we need to a better job at this.* NT Wright has some good stuff to say about this as well if you look him up in iTunes U-especially the Seattle-Pacific Univ. talks.

One of the things that I think is not necessarily overtly obvious but is implied is that Mako has spent a lot of time thinking about these texts and there is an informing relationship between the two entities. He states that Mark is/ when thinking about the texts, this painting is what is realized. One of the nice things about non-representational art is that if it is really quote unquote good it will resonate with you/your experience/your readings because of its abstract nature where abstract is not meaningless but in the idea of being “abstracted out” to a more universal sense or audience which is who the Gospel is for; that is, the world. Which I think is poignant because the Gospels themselves exist as abstracted items that are applicable to any human being regardless of background/experience/etc.

A language to bring people home.

"Art is always transgressive but done in love not just in images but in words."
The idea of being transgressive carries a bunch of weight with it. In the OED the first definition of transgressive is "Involving transgression; sinful" breaking a law. It's a very OT word a word of law; where there is lots of wrath and pain sort of implied in the breaking of it. However the second meaning is one that fits this video where transgressive is defined as "passing beyond some limit"(OED). That we are not bound simply by the history or routine of a text/thought process/method but are able to take that text and in our freedom as people bend/manipulate that text to do/say/show different things. There is the necessity to be careful with how we go about that because, and especially when dealing with something that is traditionally and rightly so, seen as sacred. But sacred doesn’t mean untouchable. Something can be both truly beautiful and beautifully true. Anyone could take the materials that Mako has at his disposal to create non-representational paintings. However it takes skill, practice and respect and deep respect and knowledge of the text to create a work like this.

*So I'm trying this out in the library this semester where a handful of students who are really creative and artist-based have their work displayed in the Library throughout the next semester. They are really excited about it and I'm pretty stoked as well. We've not really done anything with this before so it's going to be an interesting experience.
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