In any masterful painting there is dark and there is light; a very simple concept to know, yet few have truly understood this statement’s intrinsic value on how we perceive beauty – or how we re-create it. A painter must learn to wield a darkness so bold that any ill-received stroke of shade can destroy their source of light, rendering their piece dull, dreadful, and quite disdainful; while also learning how to master a lightness so powerful that it can cut through any black like a knife piercing through a darkened-canopy that is covering the sun.
Johannes Vermeer, the dutch painter, learned how to master both the dark and light, contrast and shadow — edge and shade. His light seemed to transcend any notion of black that we could perceive surrounding it, and his dark could envelope any burst of radiance he had put before it. Vermeer had learned how to integrate his subject’s (model’s) spirit into what he had painted; allowing the viewers of the piece to understand the indispensable virtue that lied within their souls during the time of their painting, and it showed through his use of exquisite contrast. This is why now, roughly four-hundred years later, we can look at “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, and in a very endearing way, empathize with the young girl within the frame.
While we as a culture would look at a man or woman such as Vermeer and exclaim their pieces are the epitome of art, there is an indelible fact that we have glanced over far too long; that these paintings are merely portrayals of real art. They are manipulations of light and dark, color and hue – line and shade, to convey art in a tangible way to those who have yet to experience the painter’s soul. The art that they push forth is their perception of reality; that they have found beauty (light) in a seemingly absolute starkness (dark). It is through their suffering and dullness that they are exposed to the beauty, and it is through their beautiful reverie that their strife is identified.
It is in this that the thought of art and beauty have come to me and that I write to you.
Art is not the material which is being presented to you, whether it is glimmering in gold, or rotting in pewter; rather art is the virtue that is pushing the hand of the painter to craft an object that can transcend our foundations of cultural-banality. In this I believe God has created man, not as an object to be viewed, yet as a source of light to contrast the enveloping darkness, and I do not believe that He has made us in his own likeness in a material resemblance; rather as a divine experience – one met with unrequited love, virtue, and authoritative humility – that redefines our lives, and shapes us into beautiful creatures. So when someone looks at my work, Vermeer’s work, or any others’ work and proclaims “Ah, you are an artist”, I would like to challenge their assumption of an artist; for I am not the creator of the beauty they experience – rather it is my crafting that is the vessel in which it is carried into their soul, created through the Father himself.
“Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it ‘the reproduction of what the senses perceive in nature through the veil of the soul.’ The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of ‘Artist’.” – Edgar Allan Poe
Bio: A partaker in breaking bread and sharing laughs; I would liken my interests to that of an older Irish grandmother – I am enthusiastic about cats, a good sweet pastry, and whiskey. I believe in the Oxford comma and I always will. Let us share in the divine together.
Trevor Gregory Sikes