Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Hibbs, Thomas: Rouault-Fujimura: Soliloquies

Book Review:

Thomas S. Hibbs: Rouault-Fujimura: Soliloquies, Square Halo Books, 2010
ImageUpdate January 20, 2010
At first glance, it would be hard to imagine two artists with more divergent backgrounds: on the one hand, the twentieth-century French painter, Georges Rouault (1871-1958) and on the other, the Japanese-American painter, Makoto Fujimura (1960-). Rouault was a devout Catholic deeply rooted in European history; Fujimura is an evangelical who has grown up a global citizen of two cultures. Rouault used oil paints to depict the life of Christ—especially the suffering Christ—and Fujimura uses semi-precious minerals in the Nihonga style to create semi-abstractions that tend to only hint at recognizable subjects. And yet there is something fascinating and absolutely correct in the pairing of Rouault and Fujimura, as happened recently with an exhibition at the Dillon Gallery in New York City and a companion volume (published by Square Halo Press), written by Thomas S. Hibbs, both with the title of Rouault-Fujimura: Soliloquies.
Seen together, it suddenly becomes clear that both artists love color and particularly the kind of haunting blues, golds, and reds that suggest the interpenetration of matter and transcendence. Both artists see the world through the Christian vision but find ways to make their works enact that vision rather than simply preach or explain it. Both artists are contemporary and edgy while at the same time drawing deeply on medieval techniques and ideas (Rouault to medieval stained glass and Fujimura to the classic Nihonga masters). Since most of you will not be able to attend the exhibition we strongly recommend that you pick up this slim paperback companion book. Hibbs writes with grace and concision as he places the work of these two men in the larger contexts of theology and philosophy. The title includes the word “soliloquies,” which of course means speech uttered by an individual, such as an actor on the stage, but as Thomas Hibbs notes at the outset, soliloquies exist within the larger play and also imply the audience as listener. These two artists pursued their visions in different times and places and with different influences and yet when their soliloquies are brought together, a true dialogue of hearts and minds ensues.
While reading this I thought that this book and the joining of Rouault and Fujimura in conversation could go a long way toward helping art literati see the natural connections of faith, tradition and contemporary styles. Nothing will do more than the blending of these to heal the cultural landscape." William Dyrness, author of Rouault: A Vision of Suffering and Salvation