This week I wanted to spend some time exploring my new paints. I have been reading about the Stations of the Cross with a view to producing a series of ‘icons’ based loosely on the structure of each image. To be clear, I am using the Stations as a vehicle, an access point for the viewer, and not for their religious symbolism. I am also referencing the Stations as a connection to the physical building because they are relief works embedded in the walls of the Chapel.
Interestingly permission for the Franciscans to erect the Stations inside their churches was only given by Pope Innocent XI in 1686. In 1731 Pope Clement XIi extended this permission to all churches provided they were erected by a Franciscan Father, with the consent of the local bishop and the number was fixed at 14. In 1857 the necessity for a Franciscan Father to erect the Stations was removed for bishops of English churches and in 1862 this was extended to all bishops. The Pugin Chapel was consecrated in 1868.
The icon, (the Greek word for ‘image’ or ‘resemblance’), is my connection to Sir John Tavener, my inspiration for this project, who was a member of the Greek Orthodox Church. An icon is a religious image, usually a painting, found within the cultures of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
This is the sort of image I have in mind when I think of an icon. Gold leaf, figurative, and jewel-like, small and precious (although this image is much larger than I expected).
Theotokos or Our Lady of Vladimir taken from Wikipedia. Around 1130 Constantinople. Tempera on board. 104 x 69 cms.
The colours used in an icon are symbolic. Gold, the radiance of heaven, red, divine life, blue, human life, violet the sovereignty of Christ, green is growth. Most include calligraphic text.
I have always felt that icons were ‘special’, and not necessarily for their religious connection. I wanted my icons to be ‘special’ too. In my research (Victoria Finlay has written an excellent book on the sources of colour, Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox), I discovered a range of paints by the American Watercolour manufacturer Daniel Smith that are made from minerals. I selected 11 for their differing qualities, texture, sparkle and colour, to which I also added gold leaf, a material new to me.
I selected Red Fuchsite, Garnet, Mayan, Bloodstone and Green Apatite and started working on various versions of Station 1, with and without tissues surface.
This is not the feeling that I am seeking. I feel I am adhering too closely to the colours of the image in the Chapel.
I need to rethink. Maybe change the paper, my approach, the intensity of the colours. I feel that these beautiful paints need to be allowed to speak more for themselves. That said, I will continue to develop the unsatisfactory images just in case.