And God saw that it was good.
Unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
If you have not yet walked along the path from Ficks Pool to Gearing's Point since it was renewed and seen the wonderful sculptures that have been erected along the way, then you have a great treat waiting for you. It has all been done to coincide with the Fynarts Festival which is, as we all know, taking place at the moment in Hermanus. What an exciting celebration of the arts it is, and hopefully you able to share in it in some way. But if you do nothing else you simply must visit "Fearless Expression," the art exhibition at Bellini Gallery in the Village Square. Those of us who already have can testify that it is truly amazing or, as the grandchildren say, awesome.
"Fearless Expression" is the exhibition of paintings done by three-year old Hermanus artist Talula. Yes, you heard me correctly, three-year old. And it has all the art critics buzzing with excitement. The story behind the art is remarkable. Talula's mother is an artist who was tired of being interrupted while she was working, so in desperation she laid out a large tarpaulin on a floor in her house, provided pots and tubes of paint, an assortment of brushes and scrapers, and some large canvasses, and let Talula get on and do her thing, Well she certainly did that as you can see both from the results hanging in Bellini Gallery and from the DVD her father, a Hermanus film maker, made of her at work. The exhibition is called "Fearless Expression" because that is precisely what it is. Talula has painted without fear, the fear of being scolded for making a mess or being rubbished by art critics. She has just enjoyed herself, following her intuition and freely applying paint to canvass. And in the process she has created beauty, an explosion of colour and design. And it is hoped that through the auction of her work, a new project will be initiated in Zwelihle to help nurture a new generation of pre-school Sparklekids.
When you walk along the coastal path in Hermanus you can look at what you see through at least two different spectacles. The one belongs to the scientist. What you see is the result of the formation of the world over millions of years as continents were formed then drifted apart, and as plants and other forms of life evolved into such a myriad of types and forms that it boggles the mind to even think about it. The other spectacles are those of the poet and artist. These eyes see the same reality but describe it differently. It is majestic and beautiful; the colours and textures in all their variation blend together in rich harmony. What you see is beautiful. The artist and the poet are seeing the same reality as the scientist, but seeing and describing it differently. Of course, the scientist can also be a poet and say it is all beautiful, and the poet also knows how the world came into being through countless millennia according to the laws of physics. And both can speak of it all as a mystery, even a divine mystery, for why should it exist at all, and why should it exist so beautifully despite flaws and ugliness?
The Fynarts Festival is a celebration of the human imagination and creativity; as such, to the eyes of faith, it is also a celebration of God's imagination and creativity. For when we look at it all through the eyes of faith we say that the cosmic power that brought everything into being and gave it life, is also a consummate artist, and that the whole earth is full of his glory. So as we celebrate the Fynarts Festival we celebrate God the source of life and beauty, the God who is both the creative artist who brings everything into being out of nothing, and discloses who he is in an ongoing act of fearless expression. And, like any artist, when he stands back and looks at the result of his creativity, this God declares "it is good." Creation is the fearless expression of God's being and love, a bringing into being something beautiful out of nothing. The Catholic theologian von Balthasar speaks of creation as "the masterpiece of the divine fantasy." (The Glory of the Lord, 1/172) Isn't that an amazing insight? Creation as "the masterpiece of the divine fantasy," a revelation of "the inner depth of God," a fearless expression of love.
But there is something more to keep in mind as we reflect on the remarkable outcome of Talula's "Fearless Expression" and that is her parent's willingness to take the risk of allowing her to express herself without fear. Her parents could have said. let us first teach Talula how to paint, how to mix colours, how to keep to the rules of proportion and the rest. To allow her simply to express herself will be disastrous! Yes, that would be too big a risk that most parents would be unwilling to take. Obeying the rules and discipline is our watchword, and for good reason. Even the artist has to be disciplined. But keep in mind that God took an enormous risk when he brought us into being and set us in the garden to freely express ourselves, as he soon discovered. That's because we find it very difficult to handle the freedom God gives us in ways that are creative not destructive. We either abuse our freedom to the hurt of ourselves and others, or we timidly fear it and so fall back on laws and rules because it is safer that way. And, indeed, we need rules to keep us on track, guide books to show us the way, boundaries and discipline to help us live and act in responsible freedom. But we also need imagination and curiosity, otherwise we become boxed into structures and conventions that prevent us from expressing our true selves, our deepest thoughts, and above all our love for others with spontaneity rather than calculation. Christ has set us free, says St. Paul, not to act irresponsibly, but with joy and compassion, generosity and, yes, sometimes even with bold, fearless expression.
Bonhoeffer wrote some wonderful words from his prison cell about this. The person, he said, "who is ignorant of this area of freedom may be a good father, citizen, and worker, indeed even a Christian; but I doubt whether he is a complete human being and therefore a Christian in the widest sense of the term." That is why, he goes on to say, we need "to regain the idea of the church as providing an understanding of the area of freedom," a space in which art, personal growth, friendship and play are all possible. In short if we are to live in the freedom that God gives us as our parent, and to do so without fear, we need to see things with the eyes of a child even when we have grown up. Because, says Jesus, "unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" or see its beauty.
John de Gruchy
Volmoed 18th June 2015