Artist as Priest

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Greetings:

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.908772004bc1f594ddc030f68da73373

Theoria

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”.Transfiguration, Rublev, ca 1405, The Kremlin, Moscow

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,

Christine Hales

Icon Website    Fine Art Website

 

 

 

 

 

The Worldview of an Iconographer

What is a worldview?  We all have one.  Our culture has a pervading worldview that changes with the times.  Having recently emerged from a postmodernist cultural viewpoint, we now experience the effects of pluralism, relativism, and syncretism in the world around us.

This is a new Icon of God Creator of the Universe by Master Iconographer Christine Hales
God, Creator of the Universe by Christine Hales

Our world view is a concept which we hold, both consciously and unconsciously  that determines our ethics, behavior, and makes up the nature of our ultimate reality.

As a Christian, our worldview is identified with the truths of  the Bible, Christ, the Trinity, and the Gospel- essentially, Christian theism.   The reason we choose Icons created before the seventeenth century as our models to create new Icons is because  Christian theism was the pervading worldview in the Western world until the advent of the Renaissance when Humanism began to emerge.  The worldview of the early Icons was one of a personal, triune God of the Bible, the universe was God’s creation and human beings were God’s special creation, created in His Image.

Early Christian Icon
Early Christian Icon

“During the period from the early Middle Ages to the end of the seventeenth century, very few challenged the existence of God…….Christianity had so penetrated the Western world that whether or not people believed in Christ or acted as Christians should, they all lived in a context of ideas influenced and informed by the Christian faith.” The Universe Next Door, James Sire

Saint Marina Icon
Paleologic Icon of Saint Marina

As Iconographers, we want to first understand the world and people around us, and then genuinely communicate God’s reality, His Truth,  to our world through the practice of Icon writing. We use the examples of the early Icons as our models to help us portray a worldview that we ourselves are not able to experience in our contemporary culture.

A worldview is a commitment , a fundamental orientation of the heart, that predisposes us to a particular reality. And that worldview provides the very foundation on which we live, work, play, and love others.

Saint John the Evangelist Icon
St. John the Evangelist Icon

If it’s true that all of one’s thoughts and actions originate in the heart, our relationship to God becomes central to us as artists and Iconographers.  More important even, than whether one uses acrylic paint, egg tempera, or use a particular style of painting Icons.

The Christian worldview is the central defining perspective and it encompasses notions of wisdom, spirituality, emotion, desire, and will. So when we say that prayer is the first and most important part of Icon painting, it is also important to keep clear about this Christian worldview, and that it is different from the worldview of the culture around us.

Early Christian Icon from St. Sophia Cathedral, Kiev
Early Christian Icon from St. Sophia Cathedral, Kiev

Ideally, our Icons become a bridge that unites the Christian worldview with whatever worldview popular culture is experiencing.  It is only through our compassionate understanding with those people and institutions around us that our Icons can go out into the world and be the blessings they are meant to be.

“Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say that “the money in your pocket is not yours, it belongs to God.” The same is true of all the gifts you have received. They have been given to you by the Holy Spirit to bring the world back to God. ”  Deacon Lawrence  

May God inspire each of you, may you hear His voice, and may your Icons truly be a blessing to the world you inhabit.

This is a diptych Icon of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Christine Hales
Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Icon by Christine Hales

Christine

Christine Simoneau Hales

“If we want clarity about our own worldview, we must reflect and profoundly consider how we actually behave.”    “The Universe Next Door” by James Sires

 

 

 

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