Take a moment to gaze at this painting and try to answer this question: “What is this piece of art about?”
Stumped? Don’t feel bad…ever since Jackson Pollock painted Autumn Rhythm (No. 30) in 1950, people have been scratching their heads in wonder. Abstract painting is an acquired taste, and this classic example will either draw you in to a world of unlimited imagination or leave you feeling frustrated that someone struck it rich by simply flinging paint onto a canvas in random patterns.
But were they random? Jackson Pollock was known for listening to music while he painted, closing his eyes and tossing paint to the rhythm of the sound he was hearing. While creating Autumn Rhythm, he listened to American jazz music, allowing each color to represent a different instrument. Jazz is wonderfully complex, with its intricate rhythms, rich “blues” harmonies, and focus on improvisation. No two jazz performances are exactly the same – each one is completely unique and in the moment – making it extremely difficult to pin down. But that is what Pollock tried to do here. He tried to take the most abstract form of music we have, capture it, and put it in a bottle for all to see. The result was Autumn Rhythm.
Try looking at the painting again. Can you “see” the thrumming string bass, or the fluttering saxophone?
The “Abstract Art” of Christian Living
The idea of taking abstract concepts and trying to flesh them out visually should be very familiar to us. After all, this is exactly what God did for us through the person of Jesus Christ. Before the coming of Christ, God’s people had the principles of His Spoken Word to live by, guided by the stories of their forefathers. But then Jesus entered the scene, taking those godly principles and living them out for all the world to see. His life served as a visual, tangible example of the way the Christian life should be lived.
And this is what we are called to do as well. We are to follow Jesus’ example, taking the beautiful principles of God’s Word and living them out, so everyone around us will have a visual, tangible picture of what Christianity is.
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
I Peter 2:21
So in a way, Autumn Rhythm can serve as an example of the Christian life. It takes something abstract and bottles it, making it more approachable (and therefore more real) to others.
If only our lives could do the same.