We are pleased to invite you to the opening of
The Art of Spirituality:
Exhibition of Christian Orthodox Icons
Opening reception: July 10, 2014, from 6:30 - 9pm.
2381 Dundas St. W., Toronto
(North of Dundas Subway Station)
Curated by by Lilly Otasevic
Wed - Fri 12 - 7pm
Sat - Sun 12 - 5pm
Art Is Spirituality
Download the catalogue from the SHA exhibition "The Art Of Spirituality" from this link:
Preview the catalogue online below.
In its core, art - as a result of inspiration - is spiritual in nature. We could explain art as an exploration of the source; a journey of discovery of the nature of things; a search for the universal truth where artist is a mediator between the source and a receiver. Through the centuries a religion, as an eminently spiritual sphere, made deepest impact on art and vice versa. From the primitive societies to modem times the two have been interwoven with everyday life and inseparable from the most intimate human aspirations, dreams and hopes. One of the art forms that made fundamental influence on modern art is the Byzantine icon art. The Icons are typically "written" with certain - coloristically flat quality. Also, they are known for the inverse perspective. Unlike linear perspective, which creates the illusion of space by having images in the distance become smaller and smaller with all things converging at a single vanishing point, inverted perspective denies the reality of space in the background. Images in the background are often larger than those in the foreground and the vanishing point or points are often in the foreground, close to the viewer. Not only does this contribute to the Byzantine interest in abstraction and flatness, it also keeps one's attention in the foreground, between the viewer and the subject of interest. Another major characteristic of icon art also found in modern art is the frequent absence of facial expression in order to show inner - spiritual - reality.
This is a real abstraction - bringing out, drawing out the essence of things - which was the initial aim of modern abstractionists such as the sculptor Constantine Brancusi or painters Kandinsky, Mondrian and cubists Picasso or Braque. Their work was mostly regarded as departure from reality while it was, in fact, a true abstraction which aspires to make hidden reality manifest in physical form. Henry Matisse was particularly impressed by Byzantine icons. He visited Moscow in 1911 and at that time he stated: "They [icons) are really great art, I am in love with their moving simplicity which, to me, is closer and dearer than Fra Angelico. In these icons the soul of the artist who painted them opens out like a mystical flower. And from them we ought to learn how to understand art".
All of these artists who were directly influenced by this ancient art form knew then, and all of modern iconographers and icon devotees know now that there is a spiritual, simple way of understanding nature of things that is deeper than the scientific, empirical knowledge. As Constantin Brancusi said: "Simplicity is complexity resolved". This is particularly true in Christian Orthodox icon art.
Lilly Otasevic, July 2014
The Perspective of Icons
Icons are the fundamental expression of Orthodox Christianity. Historically they have always been part of the Ecclesial community. From the known Acheiropoieta ("not made by hands") icon and the catacomb frescoes to our contemporary era, icons have played a great role in spreading the word of faith, embracing new nations of people in the Church. Icons were persecuted (6-9 century), just as Christians were in the first centuries, and, yet they prevailed to shine and truly explain the wonders of Christ and his Coming Kingdom.
Icons are liturgical.
They explain and complete the Liturgy, as said by a famous Russian icon painter, Leonid Ouspensky: The liturgical and sacramental life of the Church is inseparable from the image." The image Implies the reality of the Liturgy. We venerate the icons, and through them we see God Himself. We observe the Archetype, Christ, through whom all is created.
Icons are missiological.
All images present a certain value, a concept of understanding. They open an entire sphere of new reality. Thus, they gather all people of all variety and teach the beauty of life. Icons, through their written image, teach the literate and illiterate, the intelligent and those less gifted, the rich and poor the importance of humbleness, faith, righteousness, peace, love, and all other virtues important for the existence as humankind. Fathers of our Holy Church used to teach the illiterate through frescoes and icons, explaining the Gospel, the Word of God.
Icons are traditional.
They follow a certain canonical pattern. Thus, the iconographer is asked to follow the canonical rule that the tradition implicates. Each icon is authentic, original and genuine, even if the iconographer uses patterns of an older icon, it cannot be understood as a copy or duplicate. Each icon is original because it is written with prayer and humility, beauty and faith. Creating an icon the iconographer understands that God and the saint portrayed is present by the will of the Holy Spirit. Throughout history many artistic movements took place, yet the icon remained faithful to her tradition, and this is in great gratitude to the Fathers of the Church who knew the true meaning and place of icons in the Church.
Icons are theological.
They portray theology in colours, as was once said by the blessed memory bishop Danilo (Krstic). Fathers of the Church said that we can portray what was incarnate, meaning that we can portray God through the image of Christ. Christ is the revelation of the Holy Trinity. Thus, we learn about our faith through the beautiful icons that teach us about the revealed God.
Icons are cultural.
Many different cultures are expressed through icons, and icons express different cultures. Throughout nations we can observe slight differences that are intact with canonical iconography. Colour, clothing, language play a great part in how the icon is presented. Thus, implying the importance that Christ is for all nations and cultures on earth, from Europe, through the Americas to Asia. This transition of culture can be viewed in initial iconography, where infusion of Roman, Hebrew, Greek and Egyptian art was used to provide an icon of Christ, the Mother of God and all the saints. This infusion of culture helped the mission of spreading the Word of God throughout different cultures.
Icons are priceless.
They open a different realm, portraying the Heavenly Kingdom, insinuating the Heavenly reality. Saint Maximus the Confessor once said that the Old Testament is a shadow; the New Testament is an icon, while the Kingdom to come is the reality. As Christians we still live In the New Testament, in the icon, until the Coming of Ages, which is the reality. This is how we portray cons, as mirrors of reality, of the Heavenly reality we await. Let us observe, learn and grasp the reality of the Coming Kingdom we anticipate through the icon that has been given as a true gift to all humankind.
The V. Rev. Protosingelos Basil (Vasilije) Gavrilovic
Rector of Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord
Rector of Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of our Lord