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Art does not reproduce what we see. It makes us see. Paul Klee

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Casty, Gian - VM - Beat Rink

  

Gian Casty: The Lamb 

 

 Simplicity  

by Beat Rink 

This glass-pane sketch by the Swiss artist Gian Casty first came to my attention in my teenage years, when I discovered it in front of the artist’s studio – amongst the refuse. Casty had his studio in the same house as we lived in. It was a former monastery in which other artists had also lived. I often paid an unannounced visit to the artist in his studio and never felt unwelcome. There was always a friendly invitation to chat, to take part in the working process and, above all, to share jokes with this older friend. This extraordinary artist was a modest, absolutely honest and almost child-like person. 

Casty was a glass painter. Apparently sketches were unimportant to him or at least not worth keeping. But anyone viewing this picture will not be able to agree with him, as it has great expressive force. His artist friend Gian Pedretti wrote the following: ‘He leafed through his Bible like a child a book of fairy tales. Then he started to read and very quickly transformed a story into a picture. With the brush he gave form to his vision. Pages fell to the floor like leaves from a tree in autumn, countless attempts covered the floor of his studio. Casty sketched with the endurance of an evangelist, who searches how to write down what he has received.’ 

I have a second sketch which is almost identical to the one above. Unfortunately I do not know in which church the stained glass is installed. A comparison would be interesting. 

The sketch above combines several elements: the Lamb of God of whom Isaiah (53,7), John the Baptist (Joh. 1,29) and Revelation speak, the Book with the Seven Seals which is opened by the Lamb (Revelation 5, 6ff. and 6,1ff., and two crosses. It can hardly be surpassed as to simplicity. It uses no perspective and even little diversity of colour. All importance is given to what is portrayed. 

The Lamb and the book almost have the appearance of a pictogram, which gives viewers important information and guides them in a certain direction. But in contrast to a pictogram there is nothing schematic here. The Lamb does not stand for the term ‘lamb’ in general and is not replaceable by other lambs. The same is true for the book. These elements are too expressive and woven too clearly into a particular pictorial context. For this reason they could be compared to illustrations in a children’s book.

Casty did in fact illustrate two children’s books, where the images have the function of stimulating the fantasy of the young reader. They serve the text and help the children understand the story by bringing it to life. The same applies to this sketch. It speaks of the Lamb of God as ruler. It differs from most representations of the Lamb, which show the Lamb embracing the cross or a banner with the cross. Here it has nothing of a being of power about it. It is too fragile for that; it still is the sacrificial Lamb. 

Reading the picture from left to right we see the Lamb standing above the book. But the book is not unimportant. The Lamb seems to direct its glance towards it and our glance involuntarily does the same. Its gentle nature and the fact that it died for us as the sacrificial Lamb free us, however, from the terror of the Book with the Seven Seals. 

Simple and honest art like this sketch can only come from a simple faith and from a personality, which I had the privilege of experiencing as child-like in the very best sense. 

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Gian Casty (1914-1979) grew up as the son of a mountain farmer in the Canton Graubünden in Switzerland. At school a passion for painting awoke in him. In 1933 he moved to Basel. In 1946 a competition was announced for new stained-glass windows in the Basel Minster. The interest of many glass artists was aroused, that of Casty as well, who soon became the most important glass painter inSwitzerland. Characteristic for his style is the use of intensively coloured glass and a sophisticated breaking of the light by ‘schwarzlot’ (patina), which he applied to both sides of the glass. Hence one of the books dedicated to him bore the title Aus dem Dunkeln leuchten (To Shine out of Darkness). Casty created glass for public buildings and about 20 churches. Besides that he made around 300 works of stained glass. Switzerland gave a window by Casty to Pope Paul VI and created a postage stamp showing one of his windows. 

Beat Rink was born in BaselSwitzerland. He has two Master degrees from the University of Basel in literature/history and theology and is an ordained pastor of the Swiss Reformed Church. He co-founded Crescendo (www.crescendo.org) and Arts+ (www.artsplus.ch). He works as a full-time leader of Crescendo international. He gives lectures and has written the following books: Grosse Maestros, hinter der Bühne erlebt/Backstage with Great Musicians (Interview book with Franz Mohr from Steinway&SonsNew York); Mich umgibt ein grosser Klang(Interview book with 20 famous musicians - together with Franz Mohr); Jauchzet, frohlocket! Die Botschaft des Weihnachtsevangeliums von J.S. Bach; and Verleisbarungen – Aphorismen (poetry). 

To read an article by Beat Rink about Christianity and art: in English click herein German click here.   

ArtWay Visual Meditation November 10, 2013