|Colours and materials
Colour is definitely one of the appeals of a work of art. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that it should respect the hierarchy of the composition, for the viewer to take notice of the most important things first, and of all the rest then.
The Christians borrowed the different meanings of colours from the ancient civilizations and ‘christened’ them. Consequently, the message that colours transmit surpasses the subjective, immediate and psychological perception, and becomes a pedagogy, a method, an instrument for the up-building of man’s inner world. This is difficult to understand nowadays, as at present only the psychological effects of colour are taken into consideration.
The first millennium of the Christian era, with its ecclesial tradition, is the very source of inspiration for the Atelier of Spiritual Art of the Aletti Centre. Thus, generally speaking, red denotes the divinity, while blue humanity; green refers to creation; white is the colour of the Holy Spirit; gold denotes holiness and faithfulness to God, as well as the perfection of light; and so on.
In the created world, colour testifies to light, and shows that matter is existentially and essentially – that is, ontologically – connected with light. When light is lacking, matter is but a dark and heavy mass. Light is life, and colour bears witness to the life of the world. Colour turn the world into the living flesh of light. But in the transfigured world, in the world gathered together in Christ, in the world inhabiting the glory of Christ, that is, in the Heavenly Jerusalem, the sun will be Christ Himself, not light. Now, in this world colour changes depending on light; but the colours bearing witness to the sun which is Christ belong to a world which will never fade.
The art of the golden ages of Christianity has tried to reproduce, by intuitive vision, the colours of a world whose sun is Christ. In the liturgy we can contemplate the redeemed world. Then art – and especially colour – should bear witness to Christ’s redemption, and show the world according to Christ.
Life with its dynamism and movement is given expression also through matter. The Atelier of the Aletti Centre makes use of different kinds of materials: stone, marble, granite, enamel (that is, an artificial mixture especially made for glass tesserae).
Stones come from different parts of the world (Italy, Afghanistan, Turkey, Greece and so on). We make use of different types of stones, precious or common, variously cut, presenting either a matt or shiny surface, in bright or pastel colours.
Working with stones requires a very high standard of craftsmanship. It is not that easy to cut them: if the craftsman is not very skilled in it, he will either wound himself or the stones will smash to pieces. The expertise is very important: the craftsman has to take into account all the features of the stones he is working with, but he cannot impose his will on the stone. When he has to take into account the features of the stone, he will learn to care about other people too. To care about other people, to welcome them, is a religious principle: the artist must be careful not to impose his will on the world, but rather to dialogue with it. Stone is the rawest material in the cosmos; someone may deem it inanimate. On the contrary, the cosmos is alive, moved by its own will.
To explain that, Sergej Bulgakov, a theologian of genius, quoted St Maximus the Confessor according to whom the cosmos, exactly because it was made through the Logos, bears the code of the Logos. If we investigate the structure of matter we will find that code inscribed in it. What matter signifies is clearly shown by the code. The code of the Logos inscribed in matter shows the very will of matter to fulfil its most genuine goal, and its goal is Christ, in whom the meaning of the whole cosmos is ‘condensed’ and ‘fulfilled’. Matter would like to be the ‘stage’ for the revelation of God’s love, fulfilled in Christ’s body.
Jean Lacroix said that love always needs matter; in fact, love must be put into practice. Matter finds its most genuine meaning by becoming a gift that we give and receive when we meet one another. By becoming part of mutual love between people, matter is redeemed, because when love penetrates into something, there will be no place for death any longer. But love is never a faceless power; it is always a personal power.
In mosaics, matter can express its power, its hidden life, by fulfilling its own wish to share in people’s communion. That is the reason why, on the walls, matter is oriented towards the face. When matter is alive, it is bright; the fact that it is bright, is a sign that it has already been redeemed by love, and it has been given a body. When a body puts itself at the service of love, it is summed up in the face; and the face is its perennial memory.