Residency – Looking for Icons

Whilst holidaying in Greece I wanted to see some Greek icons.  The Orthodox Church and Greece had played an important role in John Tavener’s life and I was curious.

My host had discovered a tiny Chapel in the middle of nowhere whilst out running.

We abandoned the car on some wasteland and walked uphill for the final few minutes to get there.

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The door was being lovingly repaired as we approached.  The humble exterior did not prepare me.

The interior is extraordinary.  A joyous celebration of the Orthodox faith, far removed from the pain and suffering so beloved of the Pugin chapel.

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Walls, ceiling, every possible surface decorated (and in surprisingly good order), with saints and symbolic images.

 

The passion and love that had created this jewel of a building was palpable.

 

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I clearly had a misconception about icons, in particular the preciousness, which was brought home to me at another Chapel in Milies, where there were row upon row for sale in the entrance at 5 euro a time.

The icons may not have lived up to expectation but the Chapel was an unexpected delight.

Residency – A Different Perspective

Whilst on my last visit an artist friend came to view the Chapel.  She kindly offered these observations:

Nothing could have quite prepared me for the experience of stepping into the chapel…  even though Susan’s drawings, photos and descriptions are truly evocative, the overall impression was quite overwhelming for me.  A heady mixture of profound decay; an absurd theatrical setting (a large table and velvet chairs in front of the altar); a jiving Jesus above the altar and a pieta underneath it …  and debris, humid salt air that catches your throat everywhere.  Suffering and somewhat feeble attempts at the sublime.  Susan’s matter of fact comments on the ‘tacky’ plaster sculptures shook me out of my ‘lapsed catholic’ trance.  Decay, suffering and beauty in unexpected places.

I am reminded how there is always more than one perspective.

I write this from my balcony in Greece, looking out to an unusually leaden sea and sky.  I have brought my mineral paints to further explore the materials.  I am enjoying the process.  It is only by playing that you get to appreciate the possibilities and limitations.

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The grainy Bloodstone floats on the surface disturbed by the slightest attention.

D33F5549-D04B-4544-B573-E4EE8C3B1084The Rhodonite finds it hard to compete with the Bloodstone.

I try painting a figurative subject, my view.  The exercise is about revisiting the dried paint.  Yupo paper feels like plastic.  If you don’t like what you have done, wash it off and start again.  Therein lies the major problem for someone who works with many layers to build the work.

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Watercolour on Yupo, 14 x 14cms

Dropping clean water on top of the dried work the boundaries slide, so exact working seems almost impossible in my novice hands.  Any contact with the dried work by wet brush moves or removes the dried paint.

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Detail from the view.  The white areas were easily created by removal, almost impossible without preplanning on watercolour paper.  The green lines are naturally created from dried pools of Green Apatite mineral paint, carefully pipetted over the dried work.

Green Apatite is very much the colour of the Chapel for me, together with a deep rich red, which will need to be mixed from a combination of Red Fuchsite, Rhodonite and Garnet.

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I am drawn to the decaying quality of the green.

 

 

Residency

The icon is challenging, no, paralysing me.  I have tried three different Japanese washi papers, Kizuki Kosovo, Yuki Gampi and Tosa Shi (strong, lightweight papers made from mulberry or bamboo), that should have worked but don’t.

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I am now awaiting delivery of a yupo paper to continue experimenting.

I am also experimenting with hot pressed  (smooth) Saunders and Fabriano 250lb high white papers, which are proving more successful.  That said, I am still not happy with the images I am producing and am struggling to stay motivated.  I have decided that I need some separation.

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So to ease the pressure I am simply playing with the paints creating small abstracts.

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In between watching the paint dry and revisiting old works that I am not completely happy with, I have been producing a large charcoal work of the damaged Jesus, over two metres long onn Fabriano paper.

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D2180125-4949-4E82-A721-FAD48CCD1D8AThe logistics have been interesting in my temporary studio, where I do not have a suitable wall.  I will need to complete the left hand side of the work before moving the paper, as currently the right hand side is over the light switch.  Oh for a more suitable studio.