To Lift Our Spirits: Enriching Art
CARAVAN Board Member and Founding President Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler shares his top pick.
August Macke, On the Street, 1914, Watercolor, 25.5 x 29.3 cm
This watercolor by the Germain painter August Macke speaks to me of the beauty of East and West coming together. In 1914, three of my favorite European artists, August Macke, Paul Klee and Louis Moillet, traveled to Tunisia, where I used to live. It was far more than just a journey, for they were profoundly influenced by the time in North Africa, and paintings that came out of their experience there are seen as the beginning of a whole new genre of art known as Modernism.
Paul Klee himself, whose work I love, was impacted the most. As a result of his time in Tunisia, color became his most important creative tool. Prior to this trip he struggled with color: "in the realm of color I found it hard to progress." He had worked almost exclusively in monochrome watercolors drawings and etchings…excluding color. However, during his trip to Tunisia, he was profoundly affected by the brilliant light and colors of the North African landscape. He wrote, "Color has seized me. I no longer need to pursue it: it has seized me forever, I know. That is the revelation of this blessed moment. Color and I are one — I am a painter." Today, most of what we know of Klee’s work, resulted from that interaction with the Arab world.
The French artist Henri Matisse traveled to Morocco around the same time period, in 1912 and 1913. It has a profound impact on his life and art as well. Inspired by the luminous North African light and the color, during his time there he honed the distinctive marks that define his best work: vibrant and expressive colors.
It is all an interesting illustration of the West encountering and being enriched by the East, and how each can beautifully influence the other, leading to far-reaching cultural and spiritual inspiration.
Rev Paul-Gordon Chandler is the Founding President of CARAVAN, an international peacebuilding NGO that uses the arts to build sustainable peace around the world. He is an author, peacebuilder, art curator and a U.S. Episcopal priest. An authority on the Middle East and North Africa and the Abrahamic religions, he has lived and worked in the Middle East and North Africa for many years. He grew up in Senegal, West Africa, and has served in executive leadership roles around the world with the Episcopal / Anglican Church, faith-based publishing and relief & development agencies. From 2003-2013 he was the rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Cairo, Egypt, and he is a Canon at All Saints’ Cathedral, Cairo, Egypt. He is currently based in Doha, Qatar, as rector of The Anglican Church of Qatar (The Church of the Epiphany & The Anglican Centre). The author of several books, his most recent book is titled “IN SEARCH OF A PROPHET: A Spiritual Journey with Kahlil Gibran,” which focuses on the all-embracing spirituality of the early 20th century Lebanese born poet-artist and mystic, Kahlil Gibran, the author of The Prophet, presenting him a much-needed guide for our time. More information can be found on the author website: www.paulgordonchandler.com.