Poetic Seeing in Visual Arts and Theology. Aesthetics as a Spiritual and Loving Gaze within the Human Quest for Meaning.


homo aestheticus
visual arts
poetic seeing
meaning in suffering
theology and God-images


A human being is essentially homo aestheticus and not in the first place homo faber. In the light of this basic assumption, it is argued that, due to poetic seeing, interconnectedness between art[1], spirituality and the human quest for meaning exists. It is virtually impossible to define art. However, in one way or another, art is connected to imagination, inspiration and creativity. Art probes into the realm of the unseen, thus the value of iconic seeing in visual arts. By means of art, objects are moved into imagination and connected to the ‘idea’ beyond the vision of phenomenological observation. Serious art probes into the dimension of the unseen; it makes the invisible, visible. Art deals inter alia with ‘signals of transcendence’ (Peter Berger)[2] and opens up new avenues for religious thinking and spiritual experiences. Serious art can thus contribute to the healing dimension of spiritual wholeness. Art can even assist theology in the reframing of existing God-images. In this regard, the notions of a Compassionate God and God as Covenantal Partner for Life, become appropriate alternatives for the imperialistic pantokrator-images (omni-categories) of theism.

Poëtiese skoue in visuele kunste en teologie. Estetika as ‘n spirituele en liefdevolle kyk binne die raamwerk van die mens se soeke na sin

Die mens is wesenlik homo aestheticus en nie in die eerste plek homo faber nie. In die lig van die estetiese funksie van ‘n poëtiese skoue kan ‘n netwerkverband tussen kuns, spiritualiteit en die mens se soeke na sin voorveronderstel word. Dit is basies onmoontlik om kuns finaal te definieer. Tog het kuns op een of ander manier te doen met ‘ver-beeld-ing’, inspirasie en kreatiwiteit. Kuns dring die sfeer van die onsienlike binne en ‘maak’ op ‘n skeppende wyse die onsienlike in objekte en visuele waarneming, sigbaar; dit werk heuristies en kreatief-ontdekkend; dit penetreer die sogenaamde ‘idee’ agter dit wat mens in die fenomenologie van waarneming ‘sien’. Kuns is in ‘n sekere sin ikonies en staan in verband met transendensie. Kuns breek brute werklikheid oop en is ‘n soort van venster vir sinvolle spirituele ervaringe en religieuse denke. Ernstige kuns kan beskou word as ‘n vorm van heling op die vlak van ‘spirituele gesondheid’ (wholeness). Die basiese hipotese is dat die visuele kunste teologie kan help om bestaande, geykte vorme van teologisering, te transformeer. So byvoorbeeld kan die imperialistiese pantokrator-idee van‘n ‘onveranderlike, teïstiese God’ (omni-kategorie) deur middel van religieuse estetika verskuif na die sensitiewe ‘Mee-lydende God’ (patos-kategorie): God nie as kousaliteitsbeginsel nie maar as Lewende Verbondspartner.

[1]           There are different levels and dimensions of art. The article focuses on the visual arts, although the principles of aesthetics are applicable to all forms of arts.

[2]           Peter Berger (1992:121) in A Far Glory: The Quest for Faith in an Age of Credulity. “In openness to the signals of transcendence the true proportions of our experience are rediscovered. This is the comic relief of redemption; it makes it possible for us to laugh and to play with a new fullness.” Signals of transcendence create spiritual spaces for processes of hoping when life seems to be merely the tragedy of a cul de sac.



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