Art and the Common Good
Religion & Liberty Online

Art and the Common Good

Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper, in his work Wisdom & Wonder, explores humanity’s relationship to creativity:

Whereas idol worship leads away from the spiritual, obscures the spiritual, and drives it into the background, symbolic worship by contrast possesses the capacity, by repeatedly connecting the visible symbol with the spiritual, to direct a people still dependent on the sensuous toward the spiritual and to nurture that people unto the spiritual.

Art should lead us to look beyond the created object, the artist and into a contemplation of the Creator God, from whom all creativity flows. Art should be celebrated, because it truly is a gift from God.

Japanese artist Tatsuo Horiuchi is inspirational in several ways. First, he decided after his professional retirement not to simply retire from life, but to seek out a new way to live. He delved into a rather unusual medium, and it took him (by his own admission) about ten years to master it, but master it he did.

Horiuchi creates art using Excel spreadsheets. Yes: those charts of rows and columns most of us use to keep track of data for work projects. We fill them with numbers and names, email addresses and check marks. Horiuchi fills them with beauty.

Blessed John Paul II reminds us that art is not simply a pretty thing to be gazed at and admired, but a need we have:

Society needs artists, just as it needs scientists, technicians, workers, professional people, witnesses of the faith, teachers, fathers and mothers, who ensure the growth of the person and the development of the community by means of that supreme art form which is ‘the art of education’. Within the vast cultural panorama of each nation, artists have their unique place. Obedient to their inspiration in creating works both worthwhile and beautiful, they not only enrich the cultural heritage of each nation and of all humanity, but they also render an exceptional social service in favour of the common good.

Tatsuo Horiuchi’s work reminds us that God’s grace has no age, and that human creativity is nearly boundless. We need men and women who see beauty in boxes, who create color where there are only columns and rows, and who lead us into deeper into the divine.

Elise Hilton

Communications Specialist at Acton Institute. M.A. in World Religions.