Grace & Necessity One
"Modernism and the Scholastic Revival"
Chapter No. 1
Let me start off by saying, I am quite in love with this book by Rowan Williams. He writes in a way that is so profound, I can't help but underline his every thought page after page. As the title itself states, I believe this book is a necessity for anyone who considers themselves to be an "artist of faith". Or rather any Creative for that matter. I foresee myself coming back to this text year after year.
Throughout my career thus far, design has continued to be at the center of it all, but more & more lately I've been wrestling with the notion of living the life of an 'artist' rather than that of a 'designer'. It was a fascinating realization: coming to terms with the fact that my views don't necessarily align with those of a typical 'designer' lifestyle. Pleasing others / succumbing to the client's wishes is not something I want to be puppet for, while "making" to help further development, and in turn create greater impact, is something I feel much more satisfied in accomplishing with my life. I believe Williams sheds some light on this subject in chapter one.
Beauty vs. Truth
There are a vast amount of points I could discuss, but if someone were to ask me what my largest takeaway would be after reading chapter one, it would have to be the relationship between beauty and truth. Williams goes into great depth on the subject: "Beauty is not, therefore, a single transcendent object or source of radiance. It is a kind of good, but not a kind of truth — that is, it provides satisfaction, joy, for the human subject, but does not in itself tell you anything" ( p. 12 ). This distinguishment between beauty and truth is essential.
Due to the simple fact that artists are to "creative visual pieces of work" there should be no aspect more crucial to comprehend. Anyone ( arguably ) can make something beautiful. We all start out making beautiful things — a doodle, a painting, a well-designed invitation, etc. Especially in our day and age, people who call themselves creative can post a 'beautiful' picture online and be praised for their work. Not to discredit people who do so, but we must ( as our artists duty ) question the truth behind everything. There are even companies that will make designs for people within an hours time. Frankly, I'm disgusted by this, it destroys the very principle of art. Our whole existence is not about beauty — it must come back to truth. Williams refers to Maritian & Aquinas in saying that beauty will come from truth, and I couldn't agree more. If an idea is contrite, humble, honest in conception and process, the final work will be beautiful no matter the outcome.
Another rather simple point Williams brings to the surface is that of 'impact'. Referring to the conversation we had a few weeks back in Art & Christ, impact is one of the three main aspects a piece of art needs in order to be successful, with ideation and beauty being the other two parts. While impact is important, it's not all we should focus on, but ( like beauty ) will result from truth: "The production of beauty cannot be a goal for the artist. If the artist sets out to please, he or she will compromise the good of the thing made. If it is well and honestly made , it will be transparent to what is always present in the real, that is the overflow of presence which generates joy" ( p. 14 ).
Seeing parallels between the words in "Grace and Necessity" and events in my daily life have been greatly abundant oner the last few days, and I felt like somewhat of a breakthrough happened to me this past weekend. Shown below is an iPhone photo from a shoot I did while on art retreat. It was taken right after one of the most vulnerable shoots I've done. The impact was immediately seen afterwards as the subject was quite emotional. It made me think of how I approached it in a more honest way than I typically do. I didn't plan how the photos should look, but rather letting the thought process guide the outcome. In turn, it created an impact. And it was beautiful.