by Richard Miller
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The following is a review of a work of art. I wrote it for my college Art Appreciation class. The web address will take you to an image of the painting.
Consecration is an oil-on-canvas painting by Cornelis Monsma. The original size is 76 cm wide by 96cm tall or 30 inches wide by 36 inches tall. On either side of the painting are two squared-off, sharply outlined, blue-gray rectangles that run from the bottom to about two thirds of the way to the top. At the bottom center, a smooth textured, mustard yellow background gradually fades to lavender as the viewer’s gaze moves upward. The lavender darkens towards the outer edge. Thicker textured red and white drops mix at the bottom center. Red dominates at the bottom, gradually transitioning to white dominating as the viewer’s gaze moves up the painting. The top center of the painting is smooth bright white.
Monsma’s Consecration is primarily nonrepresentational in that there is no recognizable object from the known world discernible in the painting. The artist describes himself as “expressionist” and while many of his works rely totally on the seemingly purposeless application of bold, vivid colors to express emotion, others, such as this one, use form, colors and texture to clearly symbolize ideas and articulate a message. There is no sense of randomness or accident to the application of paint. The placement and texture of each color is purposeful. In that sense, there is an element of abstractness to this painting.
Given the title and the obvious use of form and color, there can be no mistaking the meaning of this painting. The space created between the opposing squared-off blue gray areas is a pit clearly symbolic of the abyss of human sinful nature. The blue gray pit has no bottom to it indicating the possibility that if one is not carried upward with the cleansing fire, one could end up sinking to an unknown depth. The colors at the bottom boil in conflict. It is a picture of the battle between flawed human nature and God’s perfect divinity. This is a vertical picture. The attention of the viewer is naturally drawn to the pit first and then upward. The mustard yellow at the bottom of the pit symbolizes God’s purifying fire. The boiling in the center colors transition from red to white as the viewer follows them from bottom to top, symbolizing mankind’s sanctification by the blood of Christ. The viewer’s gaze follows upward to a destination outside the picture. The bright white at the top center symbolize God in Heaven. There is a glow to the Lavender background, which is brighter towards the center, symbolizing God’s omnipresence. In case the viewer has any confusion about what the painting means, Monsma assigns to it a verse of scripture, Ephesians 2:6, “…God has raised us from death to life…”
I like this painting because it depicts the relationship between God and Man without the human form getting in the way. There is no traditional long-haired white European Jesus nor is there a white haired old man on a throne to hinder the viewer from a clear perception of what is a spiritual process. Consecration to God is an internal event unique to the soul of man. There is uniqueness to it for each individual but there is only one God. That God meets each of us in the depths of our abyss and offers to purify us like boiled water. In the bubbling colors, I see souls being distilled and as my gaze follows upward, I see a hint of our destination.
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