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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 11 October 2014
SATURDAY 11 OCTOBER 2014 13 FEATURE with its developed trade enabling the islanders to move freely. After Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453, most of the renowned artists and icon painters fled to Candia - nowadays Iraklion - to set up art schools. Icons were created by priests and monks, but more importantly, there were family workshops. Crete of the 15th and 16th century was the most important area in the Greek-speaking land where the icons were being produced. In those family workshops traditional techniques were passed on from father to son, from father to nephew. Work was commissioned in Crete for Mount Athos, the centre of the Orthodox Christianity. "It has always been regarded as a holy activity and it's very different from western art where the name of the artist is almost more important than the art work itself. Many icons are actually anonymous, as traditionally artists were not expected to sign their works." Around 1800, influences from Western Europe brought the ancient icon painting tradition close to an end. The tradition has been somewhat revived in Greece and Russia since. In Morrison's eyes, icons are powerful form of visual prayer - that's why he finds it of utter importance for visitors with no connection to Orthodox Christianity to realise that these are not just pretty pictures there to decorate the inside of the church or to tell people stories about saints from the past. "The most important thing about an icon in Orthodox Christianity is that when you pay respect or venerate the person that is represented in that image, you are actually passing on your respect to the individual that is behind that image. You are not venerating the gold and the paint and the wood. "It's a very complex philosophical concept and it was a very important thing that had to be resolved, because in the Old Testament there is the ruling that you can't have any veneration of painted images, or the idols. "For many Catholics the images exist to be more like a teaching tool, to explain a story from the past. But that's not the primary function in Orthodoxy - it is to enable the person who is inside that church to make a direct connection with the saints, with the Mother of God or with Jesus Christ." Ranging from those used in private houses to triptychs or diptychs - multi-panel paintings - the largest works featured at the exhibition come from the iconostasis of churches and had a public use originally. With the Art Gallery of Ballarat famous for its displays of Australian art, gallery director Gordon Morrison says the icons exhibition comes as a change. "It's a really important exhibition for us, a little bit different to what we normally do. I think Orthodox Christian icons are quite mysterious to a lot of people - they are not sure what they are, and the most important effort of this show is that we are not just showing them as beautiful images on the wall - we want to actually show that they come from a really important Christian tradition, that a lot of people from a western background have ignored or trivialised in the past. So we try to show them in the context of religion, in which they were originally produced." The exhibition ‘EIKON: Icons of the Orthodox Christian World’ is on from Saturday 18 October 2014 to Monday 26 January 2015, at the Art Gallery of Ballarat, 40 Lydiard Street North, Ballarat. The gallery is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm daily. For a program of educational and public events, including concerts of Greek and Russian-inspired music that will accompany the exhibition, visit www.artgalleryofballarat.com.au Christ the Ruler, Greece or Crete, circa 1550 (The Temple Gallery). Saint Gregory the Theologian, Northern Greece, circa 1500 (private collection, Sydney). Saint Nicholas of Myra, Russia, circa 1700 (private col- lection, Sydney). Dormition of the Mother of God, Northern Greece, 16th century (private collection, Sydney). Nativity of the Mother of God, Greece, circa 1500 (private collection, Sydney).
04 October 2014
18 October 2014