October 2014: Exhibition "Sacred Silence" at The Iona College Council on the Arts

The Artist at the opening of the exhibition.

The Artist at the opening of the exhibition.

Four local icon painters, Chantal Heinegg, Ofelia Manero, Barbara Vartenigian and Marek Czarnecki wish to share their practice of the Christian sacred art of iconography.

They use the same traditional materials and techniques that were used centuries ago: dry pigments mixed with egg emulsion; consecutive layers of colored paint on the white surface of a wooden board primed with chalk or plaster mixed with rabbit skin glue; and usually complemented with the application of gold leaf.

The colors are blended from dark to light, representing our own spiritual journey, in an attempt to reveal the divine quality of the icon’s subject, whose light originates from within and therefore casts no shadow. Perspective is inverted, so that the converging point is in the heart of the viewer and not on a distant horizon behind the subject. And as concerns the prototype itself,  we need only look to the works of iconographers who have gone before us to find the model upon which we can concentrate our efforts to bring forth the life and illumination within them.   

An icon, in its most fundamental meaning, is an image of Jesus, Mary, the saints, or some event from Holy Scripture or Christian history. Tracing its origins back to the catacombs of Rome and the funerary portraits of Fayum, iconography has tenaciously  survived as a traditional art despite the turbulent iconoclastic movements of the 8th century and, more recently, the Soviet era. It perseveres into the present time, now experiencing an international re-kindling.
Icons are windows, a manifestation of the intersection between human and divine worlds. They are a means of instruction, instruments of prayer and meditation for the iconographer and the viewer alike. Once known as the "bible of the poor" in a time when so few had the privilege of literacy, this form of transmission touches the heart and feeling of the viewer with more immediacy than a written text. It is also why we refer to the “writing” of an icon. The icon expresses a deep and vibrant silence, their timeless quality as relevant today as it was so many centuries ago.
The four painters are "place-keepers". They work in gratitude to the prototypes, spirituality and techniques of historical Eastern Orthodox iconography. Yet as Catholics, they are also answering an ecumenical call expressed at the Second Vatican Council to return to the apostolic simplicity of an early undivided church.  Through a respectful adherence to the traditions of iconography, they are re-experiencing the foundations of all Christian art. In this exhibition, we hope to offer the viewer a deeper insight into the process and possibilities of this endeavor and to share our search for this Sacred Silence.