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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 13 June 2015
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 13 JUNE 2015 15 alive "The master iconographer doesn't like to present an icon to his client or the church where you can tell the difference between the master's work and that of the apprentice," she says. When most people think of the creation of art, they associate it with freedom and a chance to explore a variety of subject matters. That's where Byzantine iconography differs in the sense that there are strict theological and aesthetic rules that must be followed, with colours that must be avoided at all costs, and those that hold a deeper meaning and reoccur in just about every icon. The main colour palette used is red, blue and gold - red representing passion and humanity, blue divinity and gold all that is heavenly. "When they look at an icon, straight away they need to know who they're looking at. For example, Saint John the Baptist. Once they look at that figure and see that he's wearing a green robe over his sheep's skin, they say 'Ah, that's John the Baptist'. So you can't go and dress him with red or pink," she explains. But as mentioned earlier, behind every rule and technique is a deeper meaning which, whether you consider yourself religious or not, has a life teaching to communicate. "Everything has got a meaning; it's symbolic. "Sometimes you see the saint is not looking at the viewer. You talk to him, you're praying, but he's not looking at you - he's looking slightly away - to remind you that your problem is big, but there are other bigger problems. It's not that the Theotokos is ignoring you." Although the artist was trained in the style of renowned iconographer Theofanis from the Cretan school, she admits to drawing from Panselinos from time to time. After 12 years of working at the studio, Anna received an invitation to travel to Australia to work on St Catherine's Church in Malvern East. Uncertain about what to expect, a venture far away from her loved ones, she left herself open to possibility. She recalls being amazed at how enthusiastic Australians were about iconography, seeing it as her responsibility to pass on her knowledge of the craft as to keep it alive. "We thought it was a dying art and when people are eager to learn, I'm more than happy to share. I was blown away with enquiries, phone calls and people asking to 'please teach me'. I loved it so much here; the Greek community was amazing and supportive. I didn't feel lonely." Now married and with a child - nine-year-old Christopher - what was to be a short stint down under has developed far beyond what she could have imagined. With most iconography commissions requiring years of commitment to complete, her own personal artwork was put on the back burner. But at 35, becoming a mother helped her discover herself not only as a person, but as an artist as well. Now she juggles a schedule that most people couldn't fathom. Aside from her iconography s a schedule that projects, she runs regular iconography classes and works on her own contemporary artwork; though she counts herself lucky to be able to do something that is more a lifestyle than a job to her. "The good thing about being an artist is you take your work with you wherever you are and I have a studio at home. So having a child wasn't a hindrance at all - quite the contrary, this new world opened up to me. I discovered so many other things about myself. Motherhood was a blessing," she shares. Although she continues to enjoy and respect the rules associated with iconography, her personal art work has granted her the opportunity for complete creative control, opening herself up to a world of possibility and expression. "When I think of my abstract work, it's about wonderment. I try to explore myself to the point of pushing the thoughts and dreams onto the canvas. "Iconography is sort of a controlled path to a point - my contemporary work is about letting energy go and expressing myself without holding anything back. I find it quite beneficial to myself to express myself without boundaries," she explains. Whilst sitting across from Anna, there's no denying the glimmer in her eye and the recurring smile on her lips as we discuss her unwavering passion for what she does. Like any artist, she has an immense personal connection to her art; though with iconography she has an even greater bond - almost otherworldly. "To appreciate iconography you have to appreciate beauty and history. Artists are quite lucky really to be able to express themselves and have this outlet. There's a lot of spirituality that stems from art, no matter what - but iconography's even deeper. "You cannot help it. You have to surrender." One of the artist’s contemporary works completed in 2014. Visually very different from her iconography pieces, though still inspired by an otherworldliness. FEATURE Another of Prifti’s contemporary works. A progress shot of Prifti working on the Pantocrator at St George in Thornbury.
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