Presentations text content in ICONS Icons are a very special form of Chri stian art fou nd particular y in the Eastern Orthodox Churches
Page 1 ICONS Icons are a very special form of Chri stian art, fou nd particular y in the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Greek word eiko means “image” or “to represent”, but icons ar e not just pictures creat ed for the sa ke of art, the are wa ys of teaching about the Christian faith t hey are literally “windows into heaven”. To Wester n eyes icons can appear unhelpful be cause of the r overemph asized flatn ss, unreal colours, la ck of per spective, and strange pro portions – b t the painte is not tryin to depict eauty , they are depictin g holiness , which demands a differe nt
artistic la nguage. Icons are made from animals, vegetables and minerals. The animal is e gg yolk, which is mixed with the paints. The vegetable i s th e wood (or paper) on which the ico is painted. The minerals are the p gments use to make the paints. In this way the whole earth is in volved in the making of an icon. The artist must prepare himself befo e he begins his work wit fa sting an d prayer and living the r ght kind of life. As he pain ts he continues to pray to God and to the saint t he icon repr esents. The icon is mad with prayer, for prayer. It is prayer. Traditionally icons are p
inted on so lid, well-age d wood, or thick board. First, becau se an icon is “holy space , there needs to be so mething to separate the icon from the world of the viewer, so it has either a decorative border or a raised edg e of wood. This “protect s the icon, like a jewel case protect a necklace Many laye rs of gesso ( hite agent and glue) ar e then applied to the wood and sand ed to give a smooth ivory like surface on which to paint – this is very time-con suming. The paint is egg tempera, which is t he p eferred me dium for creating t raditio nal icons because of t he mediums greater
luminosity and brilliance…. deal for the unique char acteristi cs of the icon. Th e yolk acts a a glue that suspends and holds to gether the pigments in water – the "binder". The delicacy of t he mixture o egg and water makes it possible to crea te very fine lines and superb detail. Fina lly the artist adds the gold leaf. Gold leaf comes in small litt "books" tha contain many very thin sheets of go ld. Each piece of gol d leaf is laid carefully on a dampened base of gild er ’s clay, which will cement the gold to the surface. The gold t hen requires burnishing, which is tim consumin g but enhan
ces the bea uty of the final effect. So metimes the whole of the backgroun d of an icon will be covered in gold leaf. Finally the icon is varnished to impr ove the adhesiveness and brillia nce of the p int. In icons Jesus and the saints are always shown with haloes which shows their holin ess, but also the Christian belief in life af ter deat h, they should literally glow in the painting. In the fo rmalised imagery Mary i usually painted weari ng blue and surrounded by stars (“Queen of Heaven”). Jesus is usually shown blessin with his rig t hand and holding the Go spels in h s left hand. If he
is portr ayed as a child held by ry , he looks li ke a miniature adult (to show that even though he was a baby he was still Go d). God is usually shown only as a hand. Icons are ca lled "windows to the king dom of heaven" because they represent the spirit ual world and the Kingdom of God t hat is w ithin us. Icons are one of t he ways Go d is reveale to us. Thr ough icons, the Orthodox Christian receives a vision of the spiritual world. In Orthodox Churches you will find an iconosta sis, which is a wall of ico s that sepa rates the or dinary people from the priests in the inner sanctu ary. The
iconostasis plays an important role in the Liturgy. The priests recite prayers and cense the icons, especially those left and right of the yal doors through to the sanctuar y. Believers will come forward to kiss icons, incl uding those in the lower rows of the i onostasis, or light cand es in front o them. They are not worshipping the icons, they are using the as a way of focussing their prayers. The icon s bind this world to heaven. The ico s are “speaking”.