Athol Dickson’s The Opposite of Art is written the way a picture is painted. There are highlights and subdued lights. There is composition. There are details that add up to make story – and a message for those willing to see it.
After a near-death experience reveals to him something he calls “the Glory,” master painter Sheridan Ridler spends his life trying to find it again. As he travels, searching for a worldview that can give him answers, he slowly comes to grips with his own selfishness and acknowledges that the glory of God is greater than he can paint.
In describing Ridler’s journey, Dickson does not shy away from portraying the dark points of humanity. People are beaten, bombs go off, innocence is lost, and all the brokenness of the world is revealed in full force. However, these conditions and circumstances aren’t dwelt on as the point of the story; they are the shadows that contrast with the highlights in the painting. Different world religions get a compelling look from an artist’s perspective. In the end, Ridler’s redemption is the picture that sends another lost soul searching.
Dickson has created a beautifully-wrought story. It is majestic as art is majestic, with light and shadows coming together to create a unified image. It also shows truth as art tells truth – to some, it will be picture of the wonder of God, but to others, it will miss the mark. The story ends on such an abstract note that some people will be unsatisfied with the picture they’ve been painted. Ridler’s soul searching continually points him to the higher glory of God, but Christianity as we know it isn’t definitively described. That does not mean it is not there to be found, but some will be disappointed with the ambiguity.
The Opposite of Art is an intriguing story, its light and darkness together forming a picture that reflects truth – but only as art reflects truth. The reader is left in many ways to draw his or her own conclusions. This book isn’t for children, but I personally enjoyed its almost fantastical storytelling and its portraits of people and places that solidly reflect the problems with the world’s attempts to construct God. Ridler’s search represents the world’s need for Him, and it echoes Moses’ words in Exodus 33:18: “And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory.’” – Kacey Heinlein, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
A great artist is cast into the icy Harlem River by a hit-and-run driver. His heart stops, and he sees something that defies description. Presumed dead by all who knew him and obsessed with the desire to paint the inexpressible, he embarks on a pilgrimage to seek help from holy men around the globe. But is it possible to see eternity without becoming lost within it? After a quarter of a century, when the world begins to whisper that he may be alive, two people come looking for the artist: the daughter he never knew existed, and the murderer who hit him on the bridge all those years ago.