Byzantine art and expressionism

The art of the byzantine icons’ painting , an art form that  was expressionism centuries (maybe a millennium) before expressionism /symbolism or surrealism ever even existed. Some of the characteristic elements of this painting “genre” that point towards this direction are:

-The main figure/ feature Enlightened being -The saint, the Saviour or the Holy Mother) is bigger that anything else in the icon
You can see saints in the background that are bigger than the ones in foreground- You can see Saints on horses that are equal in size with the animal. Proportions in general are based on priority that is a sort of unrealism: But then again, we we seek meaning

-The background too- it may be buildings (which are always distorted or proportionally wrong, rendered with  reverse or inverse perspective ) it may have rough mountains – but the main mentallity is that the background shows a distortion a lack of space or time. That is also why gold is used symbolizing enlightement, eternity, something infinite and eternal.


We speak by symbols. As we alter proportions in space we also alter facial features or body proportions in order to highlight a spiritual quality.
So that is why the ears are longer lips are thin, eyes are big, noses are way to long
and that is also why bodies are “bodiless” – There is no muscular tone, and certainly no curves 🙂
The body is just like a cloth of convenience that would soon be thrown away.
 
 Finally in byzantine painting we are speaking of , we are narrating (the first word in Greek for painting icons is historein which means sayng the history of) the story of another reality, one that is more real than this one we are living in.

 

A plant of the King and his Cross- Sweet Basil and orthodox worship

An old tradition says that basil was the plant that grew on Golgotha (Calvary Hill) hill on the spot were the Holy Cross was discovered- And it was this plant revealed to St Helena the Holy relic. And that was -they say- the reason why this sweet smelling plant took the name Basil-Vasilikos in Greek- meaning the plant of the King- The plant that showed the cross of the “King of Glory” – “Ho Basileus tes Doxes” (OBΤΔΞ) the traditional orthodox inscription on top of the Holy Cross.

Crucifixion of Christ – King of Glory

The Basil leaves are replacing the randistron (the orthodox aspergil) and sprinkle the holy water on occasions such as the blessing (agiasmos), the Great Feast of Theofaneia when all waters are blessed and  the certainly the Feast of Holy Cross where branches of basil are given to the faithful to commemorate the event of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

This day in Church is chanted:  O Lord save Thy people, And bless Thine inheritance…. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwIKl1s68eU

 

Giving a vintage look to an icon – St Alexios the man of God

Saint Alexios the Man of God
Vintage style icon of Saint Alexis the man of God

I always vintage Russian icons and I particularly loved one of the “popular” themes of Russian iconography and religious storytelling – The life and imaging of Alexis the Man of God.The  Saint’s story, a story of humility and anonymity is very moving let me quote orthodoxwiki.org here:

 “… The rare title, “Man of God,” was bestowed on St. Alexios for the manner in which he gave himself over to Jesus Christ…. He kept his true identity a secret for an entire lifetime rather than run the risk of betraying the Master through his own emotions and there is no telling how much mental anguish he suffered in silence for the sake of his commitment….”  (http://orthodoxwiki.org/Alexios_the_Man_of_God)


I tried to represent Him using a special technique to make the icon look old- The icon was hand painted, with several layers of egg tempera, on a special gessoed canvas that was wrinkled after painting, and then covered on edges with a special plant dye that gives the icon an antique patina. 


The wrinkled canvas with the painting of St Alexios on the wooden panel

The same dye was used to paint the wood that the canvas was attached on. Finally the icon was sealed with traditional wax varnish (or keronefto in Greek )made with turpentine and wax to add the  a scent – “the scent of sanctity” as it is traditionally done in byzantine icons.

Like in old churches- custom made for a baptism favor

Was asked to a baptism favor with Sts Luke and Zoe, but on how to – I  always revert to iconography tradition in order to find an answer to my questions- The initial background, to have these Saints together, in an icon, came from frescoes in Greek orthodox Churches where- you can see -Saints and even the sponsors/founders of the Church (Ktitor) standing side by side. Then images of the glass stained windows came to mind and then everything fell into place.

St Lucas and St Zoe

It turned out to be Saint Luke the Evangelist and St Zoe in a small portable icon, custom made to eventually become the small baptism favors

Baptism favors of St Luke and Zoe


 

Seamen have a patron Saint in Greece- St Nicholas

Greek Folk Art- St Nicholas tempera on canvas

When Saint Nicholas assumes command,  sailors have no longer fear. This boat is named Captain Nicholas :Kapetan Nikolas- in greek. He is the Captain of this one, he is there to calm the tempest and to return sailors safely home.


St Nicholas is a beloved and much worshiped saint all over the world- Greece, Russia, Italy, Netherlands (just to name the few that I personally am aware of…)  An icon of humility, kindness and meekness.

I loved this theme, with Saint Nicholas as much as I love Greek customs and stories and represented it, several times in various forms and mediums



Saint Nicholas saving the sailors.
Egg tempera on repurposed wood

In Greece all ships carry the icon of “”Aghios Nikolaos” where a candle is lit before it, and prayers are been made for safe passage.  When in danger, captain and sailors make a solemn promise, a “tama” to bring it to  his church “when saved”. This is usually a silver or a golden ship that is hanged to his icon.

It is not unusually -especially on the islands- to see this kind of offering hanging on His icon, but by now you know the reason why!



A Saint for the sponge divers- Saint Themelios of Kalymnos

Kalymnos is an island of Sea sponge- divers and fishermen. A very beautiful island in the south eastern Aegean with its own unique character and plenty of its own particular traditions.  It even has its own Saints worshiped on this island alone- Like Saint Themelios.

Saint Themelios of Kalymnos

When I finally found out about this Martyr,  and the beautiful little church in his name, I really wanted to paint his icon. So I represented him, plainly with the simple clothes of a fisherman, holding the cross of the martyr and having a net on his shoulder, in a plain background with his name in Greek.




The chapel and original icon of St Themelis

You can find more info for the Saint on the website -in Greek- of the Metropolis of Kalymnos Leros and Astypalaia (where the picture on the right comes from) http://www.im-leka.gr/index.php?categoryid=18&p2_articleid=553

or in English http://focusunsw.blogspot.gr/2010/11/st-themelios-of-kalymnos-november-7.html

Finally there is so much more to see on this beautiful island as its Official website can clearly show http://www.kalymnos-isl.gr/en

 

An artisans Community in Faith – My Orthodox family




Wedding crowns by Alice- “My Orthodox Family”

A growing community of Orthodox Christian artists and artisans who use their skills to create beautiful and useful things for home and family has found home in “My Orthodox family”.
The website host artists dedicated to using their creative gifts to support their families, your families, and our shared faith.


Angelicon is more than glad to be a small part of it-
You may discover more works of art, in faith, by visiting:  http://myorthodoxfamily.com

Or even submit your work in http://myorthodoxfamily.com/write-to-us/