Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Journey Of Ascent.

   O DIVINE LORD of all that exists, Thou hast illumined the Apostle and Evangelist Luke with Thy Holy Spirit, thereby enabling him to represent Thy most Holy Mother, the One who held Thee in her arms and said: The Grace of Him Who has been born of me is spread through the world!

   Enlighten and direct my soul, my heart and my spirit. Guide the hands of Thine unworthy servant so that I may worthily and perfectly portray Thine Icon, that of   Thy Mother, and all the Saints, for the glory, joy and adornment of Thy Holy Church.

   Forgive my sins and the sins of those who will venerate these icons and who, kneeling devoutly before them, give homage to those they represent.

   Protect them from all evil and instruct them with good counsel. This I ask through the intercession of Thy most Holy Mother, the Apostle Luke, and all the Saints. Amen.

   The iconographer prayer before starting an icon.

   Writing icons is at its core a spiritual discipline and not a creative process. It is a collaborative effort between God, the Saint whose icon is being written and the iconographer. This collaboration manifests itself in the stages that the iconographer undertakes from the very beginning. The following is a spotlight on the spiritual representation of every stage in icon writing, from the preparatory stage to the finishing one. Those stages which are in general known technically but few are aware of the spiritual meaning they hold.

   Starting with the preparatory stage, the icons wooden board vertical dimension symbolises the tree of life and its horizontal dimension the Tree of Knowledge. Together they are a reminder of Paradise. The grain of the wood must run vertically in order to receive the spirit from Heaven.

   The indentation of the board represents the Arc of the Covenant. The inner surface represents Paradise which is separated by the border from the outside world or cosmos.

   The linen cloth that the wood is sealed with symbolises the shroud of Jesus.

   The gesso (white paint mixture) applied represents “the rest” or “the state of non action” before creation, a state of pure potential.

   The etching of the drawing symbolises the verge of creation before it receives the breath of life “…a wind from God sweeping over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)

   Following the etching a red clay is applied on the borders of the wooden board and on the areas to be gilded. The clay on the halo symbolises our body or physical nature as expressed in Genesis (2:7.) it is symbolic of our bodies as vessels for the Spirit. The clay on the borders and sides of the board represents the Old Testament.

   The gold leaf should be adhered to the clay through the breath of the iconographer. The gold is symbolic of our spiritual nature and the breath symbolises the Spirit breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7) the breath of Life. This is, so to speak, the firing of the clay vessel.

   The bright red line around the gilded halo symbolises the transfigured physical nature of the clay after being 'fired' by the gold. The clay emerges in a purer state and it is fit to receive the Spirit; as a clay pot is fit to hold water after it has been fired in a kiln.

   Reaching the transfiguration stage which is the development of light on a dark colour base. At this stage, the colour is transferred into spirit through light. The first layer of colour is a gritty earth colour that is dark and dense representing the chaos of creation without consciousness of God.

   The lines redrawn on the etched gesso symbolises the law of nature.

   The first layer of highlights symbolises the physical world whereas the second layer symbolises the inner life of man, his/her self consciousness. The third layer of highlights symbolises the realm of bodiless beings, of the Heavenly Hierarchy.

   The green line painted at the edge of the board next to the clay border represents the new testimony by alluding to the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. It is the symbol of the new covenant.

   Application of bright wisps of light at the final stage is a symbol of God’s life-giving Light. It appears on a few parts of the clothes, on the faces and other body parts like hands and feet.

   The white line around halo and close to the iris represents enlightenment, it also symbolises the white gesso of our next board, to start the journey of ascent once more.
Source: The iconographer manual - Belgrade - 2001