An article in the Independent this morning revealed Stonehenge to be a trove of carved art, prompting surprise that art could be found in what was assumed to be some kind of religious structure.
One all-knowing commenter sniffed, if it’s a temple, it can’t be an art gallery. This kind of micro-thinking, where everything is compartmentalised into one box or another, whose definitive category must never be questioned, is the enemy of creativity, the very bane of progress.
Why can’t a temple be an art gallery? Name a single temple, cathedral or church that has no art in it! Those buildings are themselves works of art – look at Cologne Cathedral, or the Sagrada Familia. Christopher Wren was an artist before he was an architect: the first detailed drawing of the brain was done by him. The same goes for Michelangelo – artist from childhood, and later hired as an architect only because of it. It seems you can’t separate the two.
The only architects who were not artists seem to be those cretins who designed boxes as town halls, dreadful apartment blocks and horrible council offices which after only a decade or two are torn down in despair at their secular ugliness. It’s safe to say Cologne Cathedral will not suffer this fate, nor St Paul’s, or Rome’s St Peter’s.
Art was mankind’s first endeavour: Zambian finds show pigments and grinding tools 400,000 years old. Ancient man in Lascaux walked 25km to dig the pigments he needed for his cave art out of the ground. Digging up oxides and ochres was even man’s first mining operation. Gobekli Tepe is covered in art, and it seems now that temples were the basis of the first towns, not agriculture as was previously thought.
Religious feeling is saturated with enthusiasm and artistic creativity – what do we go to find in the Sistine chapel? A miserable list of council bylaws and proposed siting announcements? No, the Hell with them – we see the greatest painting ever created by man. So as for the surprise at the idea, or the debate about if a temple can be an art gallery – well, if anything, they are one and the same thing!