"The object of art is to give life a shape".
Modern art is often viewed with suspicion by the Christian church. It isn't so much that it is wholly secular, rather it is viewed as warped, shapeless, unreal and destructive. Many believe that unless a person is painted photographically, truth is destroyed. Even worse, there are those who believe that unless a person paints "religious" paintings, then they are using up their lives in the pursuit of vanity.
It is probably true to say that good art should always reflect truth. If it is true then it has fulfilled its prime objective of imaging reality. The form of the painting will reflect the style and character of the artist who views reality through their own eyes and communicates it in color and shape. In this process the object always remains the same. So a good painting must image truth. It must be a vehicle for us to touch reality. Each will come to that truth with a different sense of perception, such that each may describe the painting differently, but ultimately, all who view it will hopefully grasp the same truth.
Of course, there are other ways of viewing the expressive arts. For example; if there is no God and thus no meaning and purpose to life other than to exist and breed, then the shape of art becomes absurd. There is no scarcity of art reflecting the absurd - dark and bleak, shapeless, meaningless. Yet if there is a God, then there is shape and meaning, form and truth, and art can reflect that truth.
If an artist believes that there is a God who has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, then the reflection of truth can move toward ultimate truth. It is a substantial thing to shape beauty on canvas, particularly in a world increasingly dominated by secular utilitarianism and socialist egalitarianism. Yet beauty images the mind of God, and thus images a reality beyond our experience. To paint beyond the sensual, now that is cosmic.
How to paint eternal forms, there lies the problem. There is an artist who hides little crosses in his paintings, but that response is little better than putting bras on natives. Even worse, there are those who refuse to paint anything else other than Bible pictures of a Sunday School Jesus.
Shimmering shapes of passing shadows, that's what lies around us. Images from the mind of God, of things drifting away, of eternity drawing close, of substance in Jesus, and nothing else. Putting that on canvas, there's something substantial.