Art Effects

I enjoyed a picnic at Mariemont Park yesterday, with a group from the Church at SHAPE. The gardens contain a number of statues. There is also a museum which houses statues from different places and eras.
The Buddha
 Now, I'm no antiquities expert and I've never thought of myself as an arty farty type, but I know what I like! Without getting too analytical, I like to look for a while and allow the art to have an effect on me, to produce an emotional response. Regular readers of this blog will know that I like traditional Christian Iconography. There is a sort of spiritual technology at work here. The facial expressions, the gestures and postures, the stylized forms all combine to induce a sense of calmness and stillness - a prayerful attitude. The statue of the Buddha in the park, similarly, oozes a sense of calm, focussed attention.

If a certain sort of art serves to calm the emotions and facilitate focussed attention, other images have the opposite effect. A Japanese Samurai warrior looked so fierce that I was aware of emotions of fear and aggression arising in me in response. (Both poles of the fight or flight response). The mad, wide eyes in some of the faces in the Roman mosaics left me feeling agitated and nervous. (Only a bit. I'm not an emotional drama queen you know). The Greeks liked their statues to be perfect physical specimens and preferably nude. Their effect was by turn arousing and intimidating.

A while ago Mrs Padre and me were looking around a Church in Brussels. The nave was lined with larger than life statues of the apostles in the Greco/Roman style, positioned on high pedestals. Mrs Padre thought they were very impressive. I felt they looked ready to jump off their pedestals and beat me up if I committed a sin!

The images we surround ourselves with are not insignificant. Psychological research has confirmed what the spiritual traditions have always known: - the brain works to turn into reality the things we focus our attention on. We are at our most vulnerable when we are not self-aware, and especially when we are not honest with ourselves. If a museum can exert such effects we'd better watch out for the internet!