Is there a difference between the narrowest definition of a vocation, ie having a ‘religious’ calling, and feeling driven to do another kind of activity or ‘job’?
I am very interested in the creative drive artists have which compels them to compose a piece of music, or to paint, sculpt, or to write novels and poetry and so on. The image included here is a work by the British artist Albert Irvin. It is entitled ‘Inextinguishable’ and was completed in 2010 and is a wonderful example, I think, of his exuberant works in acrylic on canvas. Measuring 214 cm x 305 cm, this is a typical example of the large-scale work Irvin was making right up until the end of his life. Irvin undertook very few commissions but when I heard him being interviewed in 2013 – he was 90yrs old at the time and very sprightly – he said that he painted every single day without fail.
Music was also very important to Irvin and he listened to it all the time while he was painting. The title, ‘Inextinguishable’, is taken from the Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s fourth symphony. A statement by Nielsen had been at the forefront of Irvin’s mind: ‘The most elementary aspects of music are Light, Life and Motion … It’s all those things that have Will and the Craving for Life that cannot be suppressed, that I’ve wanted to depict’. Replacing the word ‘music’ with ‘painting’, Irvin suggested, would help the viewer to understand what he was trying to convey.
I would argue that regardless of artists’ religious beliefs, or indeed lack of them, their gifts and their drive are God-given and in any case the results of their work are there for all of us, in perpetuity. God gives us all different gifts, although discerning what God wants us to do with them can be a difficult and sometimes lengthy process. We don’t have to do the discerning on our own of course and we should not shy away from seeking help from others along the way. And we, the ‘others’, need to encourage people to recognise what their particular gift(s), and their vocation, might be.
Albert Irvin died in March 2015 but of course much of his work remains in public collections and can also be found on the walls of some UK hospitals. If you are interested to read more about him please see: