Art and Spirituality

Brian from MyArtSpace has asked some interesting questions on his Spiritual Side of Art post..

“Has a specific work of art touched your soul? Can you recall a specific work of art that helped your through a difficult time or defined a time of joy for you? I know that some people suggest that there is no longer room for the spiritual in the art of today– do you agree? Or would you say that the spiritual aspects of art surround us just as they did in other periods of time? In your opinion, why does visual art have this power– why do viewers establish these personal connections?” My ArtSpace

I think most of the spirituality in art is in the making of art, with the artwork simply being the byproduct. So a painting can be of something unspiritual, if there is such a word, but the artist may have felt that he/she was touching god while painting it.

I have never seen an artwork that has “touched my soul” or moved me to tears, even though I have looked at lots of art and think of myself as a reasonably sensitive person. Installations and moving images have come close as they have more tools to play with. A painting or sculpture has to work harder to affect the viewer as it simply sits there with no movement or sound, so we have to do all the work ourselves if we are to end up in tears. Film on the other hand has more tools available to press our emotional buttons at will.

Art affects us on a more subtle level, it seeps into our soul rather than blows our mind on the spot. Good art will linger, it will hang around for weeks and months after viewing it, but it probably won’t make you cry or save your life. I think the viewer has to be content with knowing that the artwork is just the waste byproduct of something spiritual, which doesn’t necessarily make the finished piece spiritual. Sometimes that waste product works as a mirror or points to something greater and it affects a person deeply, but usually it just ends up as something pretty hanging a wall.

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. You are right in that creative visual art will seldom cause extreme emotional reactions, it does seep into the senses, into the soul, slowly. Each time it is viewed it becomes stronger, a life force is recognized, it has a presense, and so creation is approached. Not of the individual, subject is irrelevant. It must have meaning to the artist so he has investigated it completely, and sought what was eternal and truthful in it. But the art itself must touch what is in all of us, not of the particular, but what makes us human.

    Though supposedly the Pope fell to his knees when Michelangelo’s Last Judgment was shown to him. Maybe just a story however. But viewing it, during a service, watching its movement, drinking in the power of its forms, colors, its musicality, enforces what is going on. Visual art does not have the impact of music, movies are usually far too manipulative to be art. And art gave up, becoming shallow , looking for immediate impact when that is not its strength, for sales, and reputation. A true creative artist looks for a layering of relationships, that only are revealed slowly, coming out as one views it anew each time.

    It grows, its alive. Demoiselles d’Avignon and Matisse Red Dessert do it for me, along with many other great works. It can be done, we just stopped trying as we drew the wrong conclusions from modernism, and the art academies calcified them and took only what they needed to sell degrees. The shock of the new is not what touched us.The artist sees and feels his time more clearly than others, and can construct a triggering device, the art work, to bring what is in all of us out. It is the shock of the true that has power.

    Check out my blog(hate saying that, tacky) as I just posted this very subject, I sent it to the Vatican in my Judgment Chapel pitch for the Venice Biennale, it was the Artchbishops idea when i showed him the triptych study six months ago. I involved music also, and words separate from the art, evoking spirituality, not illustrating it. And if A Love Supreme by John Coltrane can’t bring you to tears, nothing can.

    Creative art can and must evoke what unifies us, is eternal, what defines who we are in this world, of mind, body and soul. Or it isnt art. Its illustration or therapy or something of that individual. Creative art was born of the spiritual. it always has been, always will be. The rest is design, and is needed also. Everything has its place, art and entertainment are the yin and yang of human activity. But they are Not the same thing, they are seperate, something forgotten and blurred on purpose for selfish and lazy reasons in our gilded age. The one that died a few months ago. A new time is growing, and Creative Art must return. Anselm Kiefer must be feeling very lonely. Are we truly so lost? Seems it.

    art collegia delenda est

    art collegia delenda est

  2. Aw, Woopidoo, give up on walkabout before you drive yourself nuts. While you’ve been talking to the Great White Spirit, I’ve covered the Archibald Prize (People’s Choice Award) and Eno’s plastering the Sydney Opera House with his fruitsalts.

  3. The spiritual in art, or, at any rate, our views on the subject are expressed in our blog “The Sacred in Art”. We hope it sheds a little light into the ever increasing darkness of the human spirit.

    With Kind Regards/ The Bogside Artists

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post. Yes when I paint my work definitely has a spirtual aspect to it. I kinda move in to a different space.
    People say the work does linger with them. I know that for buyers the work functions on the aesthetic level and on an emotional level. They pick paintings where the colours or energy from the work supports them.

  5. Ian, youre right, I have been slack. I have seen all the Aussie art news, and I have stopped wandering for now, I have just been lazy.

    Donald, Im about to check out your blog. I’ll come and spam you or start an

  6. Anonymous says:

    Briefly in regards to the spiritual in art and it’s making I refer you all to the book “The Gift” by Lewis Hyde…

  7. Wheres my spam? I cant even get empty caloried marketing phishes on my site? I am so hurt! Well not really, can ignore it and not do the deleting dance you have to go through. Too busy messing with the brtis and my fellow angelenos for that anyway.

    where is the walkabout at now?

  8. Careful what you wish for Donald as the spam will come.

    Walkabout has come to a halt. I’m at home saving money and waiting for the end of the financial year in Aus (end of june) before I go back to the bank and ask for a mortgage.

  9. You gotta be careful, hear the UN has declared a flue pandemic and you guys getting hit, or are they exagerating? It can take off quickly. But if healthy, should be fine, just sick for a lil bit. pneumonia is what killed folks in teh 1918-19 Spanish flu epidemic, flu weakens the body so it and other diseases take you out.

    Might be a good time for a Bornean expedition. Just watch your head.:)


  10. Yeah, it is the flu season and swine flu seems like the in thing these days. Nothing is ever as bad as the media says it is though. News is big business, especially scary news.

    I would like to explore some of my Asian neighbors someday too Donald. I want to do a world art tour first though, so that means big western cities like New York, Paris and London. Going feral in Asia will have to wait.

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