Sts Martha and mary; Theory and practice needed to tame the Dragon

A custom order that turned out as an ideal metaphor, combining two concepts that have long occupied theologists and philosophers on the Christian world Vitta attiva and Vita contemplativa, theory and practice – Sts Martha and Mary and the legend of their life in  France (you may read a previous post related to this Saints Mary and Martha in the Legends of Provence)

Saints Martha and Mary taming the mighty dragon of Tarascon

First my background, I almost used perspective in the sky and the mountains behind, there are some lines that indicate movement in the clouds- the same was my choice for the river ( I never knew about river Rhone, lucky choice) I played with the notion of something ominous in the background (like Leonardo Da Vinci 🙂 I know…I am becoming delusional right now) , something unsettling, and contrast with the sisters that have postures that are tall but relaxed. They are tender in their movements and totally serene.

The background has also something “vague” – There is no real detail in it, there is nothing solid- The detail is focused in the sisters- the background is like a mirage (my version of maya) – the sisters are the only thing that is true (with the white “light” line around them that I so much like in frescoes)

In icons, usually the Saints are looking at the viewer but not always…. I played with the ideal of combining theory with practice -so Martha and Maria are looking at each other discreetly- They are connected with each other even from a distance and that is the ideal for theory and practice.

Byzantine icon with the sisters of Lazarus- Egg tempera on wood

 

Christian symbols – Painting the parable of the lost sheep

I was always interested in the symbolism of the first Christians – that is why I always wanted to paint the figure of the Good Shepherd, but not as the usual imaging of our Lord, as we do in byzantine iconography today, but as a young men as it was in the paintings in catacombs.

The Good Shepherd painted in a slice of an olive wood branch

A slice cut from an old olive branch that was left to to dry for a couple of years so to reveal a part of the Parable of the Lost Sheep: “…Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost./ Συγχάρητέ μοι ὅτι εὗρον τὸ πρόβατόν μου τὸ ἀπολωλός…” [Luke 15:6 KJV]

First drawing on olive wood covered with gesso

The painting was created with egg tempera. On top of the colors shellac (goma- laca) and a final layer of “keronefto” a mixture of wax and turpentine was used to permanently seal the colors.

As tradition demands a full “sensory” experience while participating in the worship -“Keronefto” is meant to invoke the sense of smell apart from the other more obvious senses of sight and touch- and open the way to the awakening of the heart- but that is what I think painting is all about…

A view fro m the top parable of the Lost Sheep


 

A look of compassion – Saint Dymphna of Gheel

Saint Dymphna religious icon

When applying color -in our technique- you actually get a certain number of “opportunities” to actually intervene in the facial expression- I usually tend to avoid pronounced or easily identifiable expressions in my icons (for several reasons), but some works seem to take a course of their own like in the case of Saint Dymphna of Gheel, the patron saint of people with mental ailments

In every color layer this delicate”sadness” of a Saint, bathed in light was evident. Sainthood is a “phenomenon” that I cannot actually comprehend (maybe that is why I chose this painting genre, so I could maybe catch a glimpse of this experience) but this was a quality I could somehow relate with- explaining it as empathy, compassion and unconditional love.

 
Looking again at the work, I am glad for the course it took.

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!



St Nikitas bed time stories

A bed time story told by my great grandma Evangellia about St Nikitas, part of the Cretan legends and tales she used to love. I ‘ve finally found it-written in http://www.explorecrete.com/crete-west/EN-Frangokastello-Basilicas.html, exactly as she used to tell it to us and I quote it here:


St Nicetas or Holy Martyr Nikitas the Goth by angelicon

“Once upon a time, there was a wedding at Frangokastello. As soon as it was over, the bride took the tablecloths away to wash them in a spring between two rocks. As she was washing them, a ship suddenly appeared offshore. The Franks on board saw the beautiful maiden and decided to carry her off as a gift to their king. They kidnapped her at night and no-one saw them.

They took the girl to the king’s palace. One day the king saw her crying and asked her what was wrong. She sighed and said, “Today is the feast of the Cross tomorrow is the feast of St Nikitas and there is a great festival in Frangokastello, my home.”
The king laughed ironically and told her, “If the Cross has grace and Nikitas might, it’s home you will go this very same night.”

The next day at Frangokastello, the priest went to the church to say mass because it was the dawn of the feast of St Nikitas. When he unlocked the church door he saw a girl inside and was frightened. He lit a candle and approached her, and saw the  girl whose wedding he had officiated at a year earlier. He asked her, “What are you doing here, my child?”

The girl told him the whole story. The legend says that St Nikitas himself brought her back on his horse. There has always been a great festival at the church of St Nikitas at Frangokastello ever since.

St Nicetas at Frangokastelo, Sfakja from http://www.orthodoxcrete.com

You can see more pictures of this beautiful church in http://orthodoxcrete.com/en/places/st-nicetas-frangokastelo/



Saint Tryphon, a protector for animals and… vine-yards!

Saint Tryphon. A young imposing Saint in beautiful garments, holding a cross really tight, and a small bird. 

St. Tryphon miniature by angelicon

To quote dear Virginia: ” In Russia, people ask for his help and protection when they look for work… we believe that he provides everyday assistance to us.. We also have a story that St. Tryphon helped to find a lost falcon of the tsar (otherwise the bird keeper would be executed), that’s why St. Tryphon is a protector of animals and when we lose a beloved animal we pray for his help and safe return.”

In Crete Greece (even for such a distance place as Crete is to Russia) St Tryphon is considered the protector of vineyards so the priest was performing a litany each year in the Saint’s day, through the vineyards and fields of villages.

Myself personally, and my family  have also a very special connection with this Saint: My grandfather was a farmer, earning his living by his vineyards (and olives).
Each year on the crop season he made a special dedication to Saint Tryphon (the ceremonial bread) and brought it to his church, humbly requesting his assistance for his new crop. Therefore the Saint was considered somehow a protector of the daily meal of my family, and a most beloved Saint!

St. Tryphon with St Matrona of Moscow

Rescuing the sailors- St Nicholas in a religious folk art painting

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 prays to calm the tempest and to return sailors safely home.

St Nicholas folk art painting- Egg tempera on canvas

In Greece all ships carry the icon of “”Aghios Nikolaos” where a candle is lit before him, and prayers are been made for safe passage. When in danger, captain and sailors pray and make a solemn promise, a “tama” to bring to his church “when saved”

Agios Nicholaos saving the sailors

It is a silver or a golden ship that is to be hanged it to his icon. You can see the icons of St Nicholas in Churches in the Greek isles filled with ships such as these!

Saint George and the Hero’s journey in the land of Cappadocia

I always liked this theme, with St George drawn in this vivid red, other- worldly background. It coincides better with this story coming from another time. I used this portable wooden triptych as the stage where the curtain opens and the story almost as a romantic tale unfolds.

Triptych icon of Saint George han painted with egg tempera in a vivid red background

Saint George is slaying the dragon and saving the princess.- One of the many stories concerning the life of the Saint, maybe the most known on the West with origins that can be traced back to the romantic ages with knights and princesses.

And maybe older than that. Roots that are found, in the holy land of Cappadocia in Asia Minor, where the Saint has lived. A land of myths and legends, still echoing the stories of of byzantine saints and ancient Heroes.

St George on his white horse, with his golden halo surrounding his young face slaying the dragon with the help of God.

Cappadocia, filled with symbols and archetypical images to be found deep into the collective subconscious, where stories about the “Hero” and the “Hero’s” journey still flourish and continue to move us.

A Little driftwood and a Pink kinono- Sweet mother pictured with roses

I tend to get very creative when it comes to a theme with roses and of course motherhood,

In a bed with roses

This is one in the One of the line of “Young Mothers” I’ ve produced in a specially treated pice of driftwood found by the beach. Somehow I had this icon of a Pink Japanese Kimono when drawing the mother’s dress. I ve also added copper gold all over the little piece of wood as a background.

Sweet mama in pink kimono driftwood

Usually I paint religious themes- but for me personally, the relation between a Mother and her Child belongs to the things that are holy. And that transcends my culture, my race, my nationality. Motherhood is beyond all these concepts, being so very ‘human”, bringing to mind the archetypical image of the Holy mother that protects and nurtures us all, therefore so very “divine”.

One night in Heaven…

It is the story of one night in Paradise -and as proof of that, a branch of heavenly apples held by St Efrosynos,  patron Saint of the cooks commemorated today, September 11th.



St Efrosynos holding a branch of heavenly apples
St Efrosynos the cook, egg tempera on a canvas panel 4.88″ x 4.88″ (12.4 x12.4 cm)

A  very humble, scorned, ridiculed, unlettered man -the cook of a monastery in Greece that- “…gave the unfading radiance of his goodness and humility, and the miraculous apples, his gift of love…”.

In this icon we can see the Saint found, in the middle on the night, in the heavenly garden, being the guardian of the place and, holding a branch of heavenly apples.

Another version of Saint Efrosynos, patron of cooks in a golden background

I cannot describe the story better than Eva C. Topping (Sacred stories from Byzantium- by Holy Cross Orthodox Press). You may find this story marvelously narrated at http://pemptousia.com/2012/11/apples-from-heaven-st-euphrosynos-the-cook/