J Scott McElroy

Art Needs No Justification

In Art, Christian Art, Church Art, Creativity, Uncategorized on March 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm

This quote is lifted from Hans Rookmaaker’s 1978 book, Art Needs No Justification. I’ll refer to it in an upcoming post, and thought you might find it inspiring. I know I did.

“God gave humanity the skill to make things beautiful, to
make music, to write poems, to make sculpture, to decorate things. The artistic
possibilities are there to be actualized, realized by us, and to be given a concrete form.
God gave this to humankind and its meaning is exactly in its givenness. It is given by
God, has to be done through God, that is, through the talents he gives, in obedience to
him and in love for him and others. In this way it is offered back to him.
If in this way art has its own meaning as Gods creation, it does not need
justification. Its justification is its being a God-given possibility. Nevertheless it can
fulfill many functions. This is a proof of the richness and unity of Gods creation. It can
be used to communicate, to stand for high values, to decorate our environment or just to
be a thing of beauty. It can be used in the church. We make a fine baptismal font; we use
good silverware for our communion service and so on. But its use is much wider than
that. Its uses are manifold. Yet, all these possibilities together do not justify art.
Art has its own meaning. A work of art can stand in the art gallery and be
cherished for its own sake. We listen to a piece of music simply to enjoy it, a kind of
enjoyment that is not merely hedonistic; it surpasses that even if in some cases it can give
great pleasure. But it has the possibility of a great number of functions that result from art
being tied to reality with a thousand ties. It is exactly this last element that has been
underrated by those people who spoke of high Art as autonomous, for its own sake.
As art does not need justification, nobody has to be excused for making art.
Artists do not need justification, just as butchers, gardeners, taxi drivers, police officers
or nurses do not need to justify with clever arguments why they are doing their work.”

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