4 Comments

  1. Zalman P Saperstein

    A great exploration of creativity and soul through an in depth interview of a very intellectual and thought provoking artist.

  2. Baker Galloway

    I find the work shared in this article fascinating and compelling, and if I were to have such images in my home I would be blessed by their power and spiritual significance. I would however like to point out and comment upon one pictorial technique that while I find it extremely effective and expressive, carries with it a different functional implication than depictions typically found in iconography, namely, that of turning a depicted saint’s head 90 degrees.

    Clearly the effect of this gesture is to indicate the saint’s connection with heaven, either via martyrdom (which I think is the best use) or via prophetic ecstasy (which I think is a more problematic use). The question arises in Christian religious art of different confessions, how do we depict the saint as a person living in the kingdom of heaven? In my understanding, the Orthodox answer to that has been for the most part to depict the saint as finding heaven in and through the created world, so their gaze and body language is still usually directed on the horizontal (social) plane, whereas other traditions have expressed saint finding heaven above/outside/beyond this world, and this is generally indicated by the saint’s body language of detachment: either looking up at the sky, or looking down passively with their eyes nearly closed. In other words, disconnected from the horizontal social plane.

    I am not challenging the appropriateness of this technique in the realm of sacred art. I am however trying to indicate that if other iconographers wish to experiment with such a gesture, I believe you will find that the result is a depiction of a saint who is not entirely present in the room with you, thus weakening the second essential aspect of all icons – the communion of the saints. The first essential aspect of all icons is in my opinion still intact in the images shown in this article, namely, the holiness of matter as effected through the incarnation and shown in the transfiguration.

    with your prayers,
    baker

    1. I mostly agree with you Baker, but it is important to recognize that not all iconography, even in the Eastern tradition, appears to have liturgical communion with the saints as its primary purpose. Historically, we see plenty of icons which are more illustrative in character, where the narrative of the event is most visually prominent, and the purpose of the icon appears more about preserving a historical memory, rather than praying to someone.

      So I think that in the special case of an icon of some extraordinary historical event, like the vision of St. Paul, it is reasonable for the temporal narrative of the event to dominate the image. But I would say that such an icon is always an outlier. It’s not the ‘main’ icon of St. Paul – not the one you would put on an iconostasis.

      So that being said, I think you are right to be concerned at the frequency with which we are seeing this gesture used in contemporary iconography. If it were to become normative or central, then our iconography would indeed move a step closer to western religious painting, and a step away from its central liturgical role.

  3. Nikola Saric

    Thank you Mr. Galloway and Mr. Gould on your thoughtful comments on this interesting subject. In my work there was no intention in making an image for liturgical use nor addressing all aspects of icons. I could roughly describe it as a series of attempts to develop a visual content that is dealing with certain ideas, stories and characters of my personal interest. In the Witnesses cycle I was working on the subject of being a witness in a biblical use of the term and in which way these different characters through their lives and deeds were witnessing God. For me, if the saints did not turned their head (attention, focus) in this illogical and strange position to meet the Lord than it would not work. Though being largely influenced by the iconographical Tradition as well as being established on theological and biblical sources, as you can see, these artistic searches are filtered through the strainer of my own intuition and experience of the subject. They are subjective reflections, in which there is no intention to set an iconographical standard or to be liturgically appropriate, therefore they should not be taken as model in any context. At the end I would like to share a beautiful thought by theologian Dr. Fousteris in his text for my exhibition in the Mount Athos Center which is also a partial revelation of my intentions and interests: “Death and hope, love and wrath, solitude and passion, falsehood and faith, humility and hypocrisy in their real dimensions and intensity. It does not flatter the beholder, nor does it attempt to teach him or her. Its only concern is the truth of things.” You can read the entire text here: http://kurz.nu/r/dlm
    The role and significance of my work (in liturgical, cultural or any other frame) I would leave to you and others to find. I am glad that I had a chance to make them and to see that they have some meaning in someones else’s life.

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