Sir,—Iris Conlay's article on Arthur Boyd's paintings (August 6) pinpointed for me once more the difficulties Catholics as a whole seem to find in coming to any sort of terms with the visual arts of today. May T, as one fortunate enough to be an adult convert and, perhaps less fortunately, a committed painter, attempt some sort of clarification?
Since prc-war days the predominant 'intellectual' climate amongst artists in this country and probably in Arthur Boyd's native Antipodes has tended strongly towards left-wing, Brechtian, socialist-materialist views.
Even more strongly identified than these positive loves are the positive hates: anything that can, however elastically, be labelled Fascist, or Catholic, or preferably both. i.e. even after Allied bombing of non-military objectives in Germany in 1944-5, Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica' remains revered by 'Allied' artists every bit as much for political as aesthetic reasons.
So to Arthur Boyd and the coyly 'let's be liberal' article about him.
Obviously gifted as a painter. Boyd's earlier work had something intensely personal and distinctively 'national' about it—making comparison with Chagall by no means inappropriate. Now he has 'lighted on' subject matter that must immediately win the approval of leftwing artistic Intelligensia'—and apparently of an intelligent Catholic critic as well.
Dare I suggest that Arthur Boyd's moralising fires might be sparked much nearer at home by the apathy, indifference. materialism and two-facedness of much of our own political and moral climate or the cowardice and deliberate obscurity of a great deal of art criticism?
Or do I suggest too difficult and unpopular a path?
Increasingly I yearn to meet anyone who by diligent research and above all humility manages to overcome an inbred N orthEuropean propensity for intolerance towards the internal necessities of one of the few remaining Catholic bulwarks—modern Spain.
As far as general Catholic uneasiness towards present-day art and artists goes, might I suggest the direction of remedy and offer a definition of something that nobody any longer cares to define?
Firstly, trust your instincts— nonsense remain& nonsense whatever the critics find to say about it—subconscious expression for something the artist himself fails
to understand, rhythmic perfection or reduction to essentials for mere patterning must be two of the jargonese wonders of our time.
Secondly the question, what is art?
Answer. An attempt by visual means to apprehend the nature of reality.
Question. What is reality? Answer. God.
Question. How can an artist express his idea of God?
Answer. By using honest observation of the means by which God reveals himself, visually, to us: the natural perfection of the world in front of our eyes.
However contentious it may seem, I hope some of the views expressed in this letter may help stimulate the artistic interest of possible readers.
East Molescy, Surrey.
Humour of Christ
was good to see you printed Isobel Quigley's review of the book on the Humour Of Christ. by the Quaker, Dr. Elton Trueblood.
Only a few days previously I had been so impressed by his analysis of such a subtle and complex subject, that I sent a copy to some priests, one of them with rather a dry, ironic humour himself, which is not always understood or appreciated by some of his parishoners.
Surely God, who has given the great gift of laughter to humans must have a sense of humour Himself? Yet, quite obviously, He does not give to it everybody. There's the rub.
However, we should all thank Dr. Trueblood for his gentle reminder of a delightful fact. To hit just the right ecumenical note, I suppose, whether we are "cradle" Catholics, or, like myself, a convert to Rome from Canterbury via Agnosticism, we ought to say or write our "thank you" with a twinkle in our eyes whilst humming a tune from The Quaker Girl.
Elizabeth Beam ish Southampton, Hants.