In his blog, “Way of Beauty”, David Clayton, Pontifex University, posted recently an article on “Artist as Priest”. He makes the connection that both the priest, in ministering the sacraments, and the artist, in creating beauty, make visible the invisible Kingdom of God.
“The role of the artist is to present new revelations of the divine, to show the beauty of the world, lit by the grace of God to a people who have become blind to it. The artist presents transcendent truths in a form that can be seen and comprehended by all. He also shows us the spiritual world in such a way that we can grasp its meaning and impact on our lives, if not its actual appearance.”
Deacon Lawrence, a deacon in Sacramento, CA, in a related blog post, Artist as Teacher, says that the artist teaches through his art. “The work of the artist reflects the splendor of God, brings hope and joy to His people, and lifts hearts and minds to His Divine.”
In both of these blog posts, the writer is speaking about artists, and that would include Iconographers, but would also include artists who create religious art.
On the topic of correct behavior and training specifically for Iconographers there are two other posts to consider.
Aidan Hart and Irina Gannota
British Iconographer Aidan Hart has written an article for Orthodoxy in Dialogue, “Icons and Culture: Transformation or Appropriation ?”. In his article, Aidan states that healthy Iconography is Pentecostal because it declares eternal truths in the language of its viewers. He reminds us that Iconographers today have a difficult task that requires both discernment and creativity.
Aidan goes on to say that, “our postmodern society puts iconography in an even more challenging situation than the early Church, for we are exposed to a plethora of images on a scale like no other culture before us.”
This article is informative and very useful to those who are beginners or continuing to learn Icon writing. It covers the important aspects of authenticity and sacredness and shows historical documentation that allows the reader to see and understand the nuanced world of Icon writing today.
The second article, Iconography as Byzantine Portraiture, was written by Irina Gannota in response to Aidan Hart’s article and also published on the Orthodoxy in Dialogue website. Irina states that Iconography could be thought of as a style of medieval painting and should be taught as such at Iconography schools.
Both of these articles help to flesh out some of the disturbing elements that can infiltrate Icon writing, and they help to bring into our awareness the need to carefully consider our methods and motives in Icon writing.
We know that in the Old Testament, God assigns specific jobs and roles to people who are artists and artisans. In Exodus 36, God calls His artists and craftsmen to design and make craft work, and to pass on their skill and spirit by teaching, Exodus 36:1-2. Teaching is a gift of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:28.
The Greek word, “theoria”, means intelligent contemplation and encompasses the process of understanding Scripture. It is a gift of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. The early Church fathers perceived a depth of meaning when reading and meditating on the Holy Scriptures that we can only approximate today. But it is this very depth that is indicative of the Iconographic vision and perspective.
One can deduce then, the importance of Biblical study and interpretation in the light of Icon writing and training. In this way, Icon writing becomes a form of lectio divina, sometimes referred to as “visio divina”.
The Lifestyle of an Iconographer
Symbolical realism in the Icon that is based on spiritual experience and vision needs its link to Tradition and meaning in order to flourish. It is not an easy thing to manifest this perspective. It takes discipline, being rooted in a life giving Church that nurtures an ongoing relationship with God, good spiritual directors, good art/Icon writing training, and quality fellowship with other believers.
Until next month,
Be blessed and a blessing,