Author Topic: Western Iconography  (Read 777 times)

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Offline Jonathan

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Western Iconography
« on: November 08, 2018, 10:35:19 PM »
Hello,

There is an icongrapher who lives in a village just outside my city. He trained for years in a Greek Orthodox monastery, and his hands were blessed by the bishop for him to be an iconographer. I've seen Byzantine icons that he's done, with very high skill.

But he's gone in a different direction. He's Canadian, and found that his family and the people he knows did not relate to Byzantine icons. So he set out to think about what iconography in our culture would mean. This does not at all mean that he made a new start. He is very knowledgeable about the history of icons, and every time he sets out to make one, he considers many versions from different cultures, to stay within and grow out of the traditional Orthodox iconography. While his icons might look different, it is fascinating to hear him go through all the various elements and constraints that have gone into keeping each one within the bounds of tradition.

While he's been working at this for years, he has just in the past year become fully set aside to this, no longer giving much of his time to secular employment as before.

Here is the news letter announcing the new start for his studio: https://www.conestogaicons.com/november-newsletter/.

He's just launched some prints of older works he's done, and month by month he will be adding new prints for his current work: a series of icons for all the rooms of the house. Once he gets along, he will start offering that on a subscription basis, at a discount.

His prints are higher quality than what I've seen: there are actual metal foils, rather than an image of gold. Many people have asked him if examples are really prints and not the originals.

While the style is a new expression of the Orthodox tradition of iconography, he is approaching it traditionally in every manner of his process. He cuts down the trees and makes the boards himself. He raises the chickens for the eggs to make paint, and travels across Canada (but especially from his village, which was a traditional pigment mill) to collect rocks and other items to make pigments. He grows plants to make his own blue pigment. He fasts, and follows the traditional prayers for beginning, continuing, and finishing past down from his teacher in the monastery.

So I post this for a couple reasons: It would be interesting to see some discussion about the expression of our Orthodox tradition of iconography in our culture (reactions seem to be quite polarized, either enthusiastic to see the work here, or not appreciating something different than what they've lived with for so long), and, for those who find this expression to be good, it would be great to band together to see his work continue, by purchasing prints, or subscribing to a series of prints, or by commissioning new works, either ones he'll be doing for the series, or others.

I saw a sketch in his studio of his work preparing for large festive works in this style (it was the Nativity), so it's very interesting to watch this work progress.

You can find information about the icons in the home project, commissioning, or just about his studio on his website: https://www.conestogaicons.com/ and a news feed on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/conestogaicons/

(I wasn't sure where to post this... to me, icons are liturgical, so this made sense, but if I'm wrong... I tried).

Offline hecma925

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2018, 10:45:06 PM »
His work has appeared here.  And for those that have followed the Orthodox Arts Journal, they know of him.

https://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/local-colors-of-conestoga-woad-blue/

Interesting that he felt that because people couldn't relate to Byzantine-style iconography that he went in a different (not really new) direction.  I have said his work looks Romanesque.

Quote from: hecma925 link=topic=59994.msg1465488#msg1465488
date=1498906777

Happy shall he be, that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. Alleluia.

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2018, 11:14:56 PM »
I enjoy his work immensely.
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Offline hecma925

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2018, 11:25:05 PM »
I enjoy his work immensely.

I do not relate to his icons at all.
Happy shall he be, that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. Alleluia.

Once Christ has filled the Cross, it can never be empty again.

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Offline Ainnir

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2018, 11:29:39 PM »
Yeah, I think my Western-ness is failing in this regard.  Scottish-Celtic is more what it reminds me of.  Which may indeed resonate with some people.  Just not me personally.
Is any of the above Orthodox?  I have no clue, so there's that.

Offline hecma925

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2018, 12:08:57 AM »
Yeah, I think my Western-ness is failing in this regard.  Scottish-Celtic is more what it reminds me of.  Which may indeed resonate with some people.  Just not me personally.

Do you have examples of Scottish-Celtic art to compare?
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Offline HaydenTE

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2018, 12:14:56 AM »
I like it, but I think it’s mostly “homesickness” for Roman Catholicism
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Offline Ainnir

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2018, 08:51:07 AM »
Yeah, I think my Western-ness is failing in this regard.  Scottish-Celtic is more what it reminds me of.  Which may indeed resonate with some people.  Just not me personally.

Do you have examples of Scottish-Celtic art to compare?
No, lol.  It's not necessarily an art style that it puts me in mind of (consciously, anyway).  That's just the region of the world that pops to mind first.  Free association and all that.   ;D
Is any of the above Orthodox?  I have no clue, so there's that.

Offline Iconodule

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2018, 08:58:42 AM »
They actually remind me of Georgian icons.
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Offline Iconodule

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2018, 11:16:01 AM »
Yeah, I think my Western-ness is failing in this regard.  Scottish-Celtic is more what it reminds me of.  Which may indeed resonate with some people.  Just not me personally.

I do think it's weird the way some people talk about Western heritage as if someone of West European descent in the US or Canada will have a genetic predisposition to something painted in a style from 10th century France or Ireland.
Mencius said, “Instruction makes use of many techniques. When I do not deign to instruct someone, that too is a form of instruction.”

Offline Saxon

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2018, 11:56:51 AM »
They actually remind me of Georgian icons.

Yeah, I think my Western-ness is failing in this regard.  Scottish-Celtic is more what it reminds me of.  Which may indeed resonate with some people.  Just not me personally.

I do think it's weird the way some people talk about Western heritage as if someone of West European descent in the US or Canada will have a genetic predisposition to something painted in a style from 10th century France or Ireland.

^ This.

I personally don't find this style of iconography to be appealing. There's a Romanian Orthodox monk who has founded a new monastery on Mull, emphasizing the Celtic monastic traditions of the local islands, but the icons being produced there similarly aren't my style. I actually do have a particular affinity for the stories of Western saints as I feel they are more culturally and historically relatable to a Western convert such as myself - the Russophilia and Slavophilia I espoused upon first delving into Orthodoxy proved to be spiritually destructive in my case - but I'm not hung up on aesthetics.

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2018, 12:00:09 PM »
Yeah, I think my Western-ness is failing in this regard.  Scottish-Celtic is more what it reminds me of.  Which may indeed resonate with some people.  Just not me personally.

I do think it's weird the way some people talk about Western heritage as if someone of West European descent in the US or Canada will have a genetic predisposition to something painted in a style from 10th century France or Ireland.

I dont think that sentiment matches what he's trying to achieve... He is western. He has a master's in fine arts. He's familiar with western art. But this is his attempt as a westerner to paint icons as his eye sees. He isn't trying to reproduce romanesque or Celtic or anything else any more than he's trying to reproduce Byzantine. He's painting as he sees, he being a Canadian. So I don't think anyone is expecting some genetic magic to make something from hundreds of years ago appeal to people... Rather one westerner born and raised here is producing what he sees, hoping it will feel more natural to others with his background , or at least spark others to try too and come up with something that does. So it's fair to say you don't think he go it... But I don't think it's fair to equate it to reproducing something else foreign and say it doesn't make sense to do that... Since that's not what he's trying to do.

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2018, 12:05:05 PM »
It also might make more sense to base that discussion on where his work has gone rather than the earlier work listed above... I just don't know how to post this, but here's his most recent one:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpW9Kfflrv-/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=vsundsafq6cy

Offline Iconodule

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #13 on: November 09, 2018, 12:05:48 PM »
I actually really like his work, I'm just commenting on a general tendency I've seen in discussions of Western Christianity vis-à-vis Orthodoxy. I'm all about the iconographic palette including more than variants of Byzantine art.
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #14 on: November 09, 2018, 12:15:01 PM »
I actually really like his work, I'm just commenting on a general tendency I've seen in discussions of Western Christianity vis-à-vis Orthodoxy. I'm all about the iconographic palette including more than variants of Byzantine art.

Ok cool, I just wanted to make sure that the vision that he and I share (with his focus being on iconographer and my much less productive focus being on liturgy) is not "we're western, so we need to do thinks like western Christians did a millenium ago" rather, it's that the orthodox faith has been spread to many lands in that past, and in each place the people there received it and expressed it as themselves. Greeks went to Russia, but Russians didn't pretend to be Greek, they created hymns and icons that flowed from what they received, bit developed in their culture. Copts went to Ethiopia, bit the icons and music there are clearly Ethiopian today. But largely in North America we seem to want to innovate and be the first land not to do that, to rather continue with music and art and liturgy that expressed orthodoxy in another time and place, unchanging here. Reproducing old Greek and Russian icons rather than figuring out what it means for us to make icons as us. Keeping Coptic tunes eternally unchanging because Coptic is our orthodoxy. That attitude leaves us as larpers or outsiders. This is a baby step, whether in the right or wrong direction, to do what orthodoxy has always done in a new land, to be expressed by the people there as themselves. That's something very different than reconstructing a dead rite or style from hundreds of years ago because it was used in the west and so must fit here now...

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #15 on: November 09, 2018, 12:56:36 PM »
Does this work?


Offline juliogb

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #16 on: November 09, 2018, 01:02:26 PM »
The pink cheeks and general style resembles a lot medieval illuminations.








Offline hecma925

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2018, 10:23:03 PM »
They actually remind me of Georgian icons.

In what way?

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Offline Dominika

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2018, 09:49:43 AM »
In Poland over some years a trend among Roman Catholics to re-discover icons is noticable. But, since the most venerates images of the Theotokos in this country are true icons (Częstochowska, Ostrobramska, Nieustającej Pomocy - of the Perpetual Help) and we've been always between East and West, there is no need to change their style, to be in the same cultural code. However, sometimes they change the icon canon:
1. Neocatechumenate groups - almost all of them are under Kiko's influence.
2. Dominicians seem to be a bit under Taize influence, the same some other groups working with young people
3. Some neo-iconographers, treating icons more as "mean/way of artistic expression".
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 09:50:08 AM by Dominika »
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Offline WPM

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2018, 10:13:07 AM »
maybe I don't use icons that much or is not that necessary
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Offline hecma925

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #20 on: November 10, 2018, 10:21:23 AM »
I had to look up who is Kiko.
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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #21 on: November 10, 2018, 10:50:54 AM »
They actually remind me of Georgian icons.

In what way?

Pink cheeks, big heads.
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Offline Alpha60

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #22 on: November 10, 2018, 02:37:53 PM »
Does this work?



This is pure Shlock worthy of the Shlock Icons thread.  Not wanting to sound excessively harsh, but this icon objectively sucks.
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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #23 on: November 10, 2018, 02:43:07 PM »
His work has appeared here.  And for those that have followed the Orthodox Arts Journal, they know of him.

https://www.orthodoxartsjournal.org/local-colors-of-conestoga-woad-blue/

Interesting that he felt that because people couldn't relate to Byzantine-style iconography that he went in a different (not really new) direction.  I have said his work looks Romanesque.

Quote from: hecma925 link=topic=59994.msg1465488#msg1465488
date=1498906777




I have no idea why he thinks people can’t relate to Byzantine-style iconography; I respect his piety and devotional practices but the homegrown style he is using to me looks cartoonish and farcical.  There is no way I could approach those icons with a straight face.  Which is a pity, because the lengths he goes to to make his own pigments and so on are impressive.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 02:43:34 PM by Alpha60 »
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.

Offline Alpha60

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #24 on: November 10, 2018, 02:47:48 PM »
In Poland over some years a trend among Roman Catholics to re-discover icons is noticable. But, since the most venerates images of the Theotokos in this country are true icons (Częstochowska, Ostrobramska, Nieustającej Pomocy - of the Perpetual Help) and we've been always between East and West, there is no need to change their style, to be in the same cultural code. However, sometimes they change the icon canon:
1. Neocatechumenate groups - almost all of them are under Kiko's influence.
2. Dominicians seem to be a bit under Taize influence, the same some other groups working with young people
3. Some neo-iconographers, treating icons more as "mean/way of artistic expression".

I am not a fan of Taize, musically, liturgically or otherwise I have to confess.  I also am surprised the Dominicans would be all over it; if you had said Franciscan or Jesuit I would be less shocked.  But the Blackfriars are supposed to be at least somewhat hardcore, and in the US still have a formidable reputation which other mendicant orders have lost.
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #25 on: November 10, 2018, 03:18:51 PM »
Does this work?



This is pure Shlock worthy of the Shlock Icons thread.  Not wanting to sound excessively harsh, but this icon objectively sucks.

Why do you consider it as schlock?

I respect his piety and devotional practices but the homegrown style he is using to me looks cartoonish and farcical.  There is no way I could approach those icons with a straight face.  Which is a pity, because the lengths he goes to to make his own pigments and so on are impressive.

Ethiopian icons:






I am not a fan of Taize, musically, liturgically or otherwise I have to confess.
Well, one of the first icons I've ever head was the one brought by my sister from Taize, Christ and saint Menas. They also use some Orthodox chants, e.g Evlogitaria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXHgnlsJ2pc

The death of brother Roger moved me a lot, but that's a separate story.


And well, Dominicans, at least in Poland, tend to mix Novus Ordo, Latin and Eastern traditions. They attract young people.
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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #26 on: November 10, 2018, 03:30:20 PM »
Happy shall he be, that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. Alleluia.

Once Christ has filled the Cross, it can never be empty again.

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Offline hecma925

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #27 on: November 10, 2018, 03:32:51 PM »
Does this work?



This is pure Shlock worthy of the Shlock Icons thread.  Not wanting to sound excessively harsh, but this icon objectively sucks.

Alpha60, your outrage here is excessive.  This isn't Lentz's stuff.
Happy shall he be, that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. Alleluia.

Once Christ has filled the Cross, it can never be empty again.

"But God doesn't need your cookies!  Arrive on time!"

Offline hecma925

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #28 on: November 10, 2018, 03:33:39 PM »
Does this work?



What do you mean by "work"?
Happy shall he be, that shall take and dash thy little ones against the rock. Alleluia.

Once Christ has filled the Cross, it can never be empty again.

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Offline Sharbel

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #29 on: November 10, 2018, 03:48:36 PM »
Does this work?


Yes,... in a book for children, perhaps.
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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #30 on: November 10, 2018, 04:48:32 PM »
Does this work?



This is pure Shlock worthy of the Shlock Icons thread.  Not wanting to sound excessively harsh, but this icon objectively sucks.

Alpha60, your outrage here is excessive.  This isn't Lentz's stuff.

Agreed. If this is schlock, Ethiopian icons and Caucasian icons (of the more exaggerated sort) are schlock.
“God,”
The words rumbled:
“There is much suffering,
But the church is alive. "

 “How long, Archpriest, are we to suffer thus?” I answered: “Until our very death, Markovna!” And she replied, with a sigh: “So be it, Petrovich, let us plod on.” - Life of Avvakum by Himself

Nastasya, Nastasya, be
patient and do not cry:
Not every happiness
Comes in the clothing of fortune.

St. Avvakum, pray for us!

St. Ambrose, pray for us!

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Offline platypus

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #31 on: November 10, 2018, 05:49:00 PM »
Does this work?


Yes,... in a book for children, perhaps.

The style is actually very similar to the pictures in a children's Bible I had when I was very young. I wish I could remember who published it.
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #32 on: November 10, 2018, 11:09:02 PM »
What do you mean by "work"?

It also might make more sense to base that discussion on where his work has gone rather than the earlier work listed above... I just don't know how to post this, but here's his most recent one...

Does this work?

img width=800https://www.conestogaicons.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/instagram_05.jpg/img

Posting the image...
« Last Edit: November 10, 2018, 11:10:09 PM by Jonathan »

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #33 on: November 10, 2018, 11:23:20 PM »
This is pure Shlock worthy of the Shlock Icons thread.  Not wanting to sound excessively harsh, but this icon objectively sucks.

I have to question the use of the word objectively here.

I know a priest who has said that Byzantine icons are not canonical icons. I believe saying not canonical implies he believes them to be objectively wrong. He argued, at length, that they are simply primitive icons that became stagnant because their shortcomings were dogmatized and explained away by spiritual meaning. To him, Italian style Renascence portraits of Christ and the saints were the only appropriate icons today, because they're objectively better than Byzantine icons in quality, and it is only fitting to use the best we have for Christ.

Of course, I believe that to be utter nonsense.  What he meant was that he grew up with italian portraits, and that's all he knew, and nothing else looked right to his eyes. But to him it had to be objective to justify imposing it. So I really have a hard time when someone says icons objectively suck without giving any reason or explanation. It sounds more to me like someone saying "I subjectively don't like this style".

The icons in the schlock thread are there mostly because they do really weird untraditional things in the subject matter they portray, inserting imagery that is questionable at best in an icon. Symeon very much does not do that, so I don't find anything in your argument that justifies applying that title. This issue here is not what is portrayed, but the artistic style in which it is portrayed. Others have pointed out that the condemnation because of the simplified style and rosy cheeks seems also to condemn Ethiopian icons, Romanesque images, perhaps Georgian Icons... So I'll throw another into the mix, the very beautiful and famous Red Sea icons at St. Anthony's:




So it seems to me all you've argued is that they're not Byzantine icons that you're used to, and everything else is schlock. Maybe Symeon's icons are great, and will be famous in a thousand years. Maybe they're not. I can't judge them that way without the benefit of history seeing how they're received. But it seems rather uncharitable to so casually dismiss someone's life work, that they've poured themselves into so much, with such great study of history and the commonality of icons, without bothering to contribute anything positive to the discussion of what it means for us here and now to produce icons, rather than remaining ossified in reproductions of another time and place.

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #34 on: November 11, 2018, 12:00:31 AM »
I don't agree with Alpha60's assessment.

Objectively, they are quite lovely.  Good lines and beautiful color.  I like that he makes his own boards and pigments; that's very neat.

Subjectively, they do not bring me to prayer or want to know about the saints depicted.

So it's not about canonicity at all, for me anyway.
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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #35 on: November 11, 2018, 10:51:23 AM »
Does this work?



This is pure Shlock worthy of the Shlock Icons thread.  Not wanting to sound excessively harsh, but this icon objectively sucks.

Why do you consider it as schlock?

I respect his piety and devotional practices but the homegrown style he is using to me looks cartoonish and farcical.  There is no way I could approach those icons with a straight face.  Which is a pity, because the lengths he goes to to make his own pigments and so on are impressive.

Ethiopian icons:






I am not a fan of Taize, musically, liturgically or otherwise I have to confess.
Well, one of the first icons I've ever head was the one brought by my sister from Taize, Christ and saint Menas. They also use some Orthodox chants, e.g Evlogitaria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXHgnlsJ2pc

The death of brother Roger moved me a lot, but that's a separate story.


And well, Dominicans, at least in Poland, tend to mix Novus Ordo, Latin and Eastern traditions. They attract young people.

The Ethiopian icons don’t strike me as cartoonish; they are highly stylized, to be sure, but this stylization is part of a natural evolution as opposed to, in the case of this icon, a contrived and imposed style.  That being said, the other icons of his aren’t as bad, but the icon he made of St. Cyril the Wonderworker looks like he’s trying to mix several different iconographic styles; it’s a pastiche and it looks corny.

Regarding Taize, given what you are saying about it, I am prepared to reconsider my objections, since you have a known good taste when it comes to this sort of thing.
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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #36 on: November 11, 2018, 11:13:01 AM »
This is pure Shlock worthy of the Shlock Icons thread.  Not wanting to sound excessively harsh, but this icon objectively sucks.

I have to question the use of the word objectively here.

I know a priest who has said that Byzantine icons are not canonical icons. I believe saying not canonical implies he believes them to be objectively wrong. He argued, at length, that they are simply primitive icons that became stagnant because their shortcomings were dogmatized and explained away by spiritual meaning. To him, Italian style Renascence portraits of Christ and the saints were the only appropriate icons today, because they're objectively better than Byzantine icons in quality, and it is only fitting to use the best we have for Christ.

Of course, I believe that to be utter nonsense.  What he meant was that he grew up with italian portraits, and that's all he knew, and nothing else looked right to his eyes. But to him it had to be objective to justify imposing it. So I really have a hard time when someone says icons objectively suck without giving any reason or explanation. It sounds more to me like someone saying "I subjectively don't like this style".

The icons in the schlock thread are there mostly because they do really weird untraditional things in the subject matter they portray, inserting imagery that is questionable at best in an icon. Symeon very much does not do that, so I don't find anything in your argument that justifies applying that title. This issue here is not what is portrayed, but the artistic style in which it is portrayed. Others have pointed out that the condemnation because of the simplified style and rosy cheeks seems also to condemn Ethiopian icons, Romanesque images, perhaps Georgian Icons... So I'll throw another into the mix, the very beautiful and famous Red Sea icons at St. Anthony's:





These icons are stunningly beautiful and move me to tears, unlike the pastiche Conestoga icons.  I will explain why below.

Quote

So it seems to me all you've argued is that they're not Byzantine icons that you're used to, and everything else is schlock. Maybe Symeon's icons are great, and will be famous in a thousand years. Maybe they're not. I can't judge them that way without the benefit of history seeing how they're received. But it seems rather uncharitable to so casually dismiss someone's life work, that they've poured themselves into so much, with such great study of history and the commonality of icons, without bothering to contribute anything positive to the discussion of what it means for us here and now to produce icons, rather than remaining ossified in reproductions of another time and place.

This would be a valid point, were it not for the extreme love that I have for Coptic, Syriac, Caucasian and Ethiopian icons.   I have a large number of icons of all of the above, although I do not display them in an intermixed manner, to avoid eclectism, but rather separate them according to their style, because blending them could turn into a messy business.  Which takes us to my main point:

There is a huge difference between those traditional styles of icons, and also the Byzantine icons, and the traditional Romanesque icons, and the icons painted by this Canadian chap, and that is the Georgian icons, the Armenian icons, the Coptic icons, the Syrian icons, the Byzantine icons and so on are representative of a living tradition which has its own distinctive artistic nuances and thematic elements.  What he has done, on the other hand, is to take a selection of stylistic inputs, and blend them in an eclectic manner, and the results, on occasion, look good, but in the case of his icon of St. Cyril the Wonderworker, the result, as Sharbel put it, looks like an illustration from a children’s book.

I just couldn’t venerate that icon with a straight face.   Whereas on the other hand, Coptic icons, Georgian icons, Syriac icons, Armenian icons, Byzantine icons, Romanesque icons and Ethiopian icons, and indeed even Renaissance paintings of our Lord, and also the stained glass window tradition of iconography present in the West, have all on various occasions brought me to tears.

The problem comes down to eclecticism.  He used a Coptic or Byzantine style gold background, Ethiopic style eyes, and Georgian facial styling, with some novel approaches to detailing, and the result just doesn’t look serious.

Now, other icons of his posted in this thread are somewhat more successful, for example, the diptych depicting the Mercy Seat and Christ Pantocrator, but I still would find it hard to venerate.  The typography he uses, for example, and the blending of styles; it was not even immediately apparent that it was an icon of Christ.  This is in contrast to Byzantine, Ethiopian, Coptic or Georgian iconography, or all other traditional forms we have discussed, where our Lord is instantly identifiable.

When it comes to icons, one thing I have read that has stuck with me is that the creativity of the iconographer must be restrained and sublimated; icons are not an appropriate venue for stylistic innovation.  This is true whether we are talking about Byzantine icons, Coptic icons, Georgian icons, or any  other style.  And these Conestoga icons violate this principle by not adhering to any of the ancient iconographic styles, but rather innovating by mixing them together. 

To put it another way, I love steak, and I love icecream, but I don’t want a chocolate fudge sundae on my filet mignon.  His blending of styles strikes me as having that effect.

By the way, long time users of OCNet will recall my original avatar was a Syriac icon of St. Athanasius, and later, for a while, I used a Coptic icon of St. Athanasius.  I stopped using these icons as my avatar in part because occasionally I say things on OCNet I come to regret, and I didn’t want people to mentally associate my faux pas with these beautiful icons of holy saints.  Thus my current avatar is the symbol of a villainous artificial intelligence who is not even human.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2018, 11:15:04 AM by Alpha60 »
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.

Offline Alpha60

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #37 on: November 11, 2018, 11:33:10 AM »
I failed to address Dominika with sufficient detail, and I think a more thorough reply is warranted:

Does this work?



This is pure Shlock worthy of the Shlock Icons thread.  Not wanting to sound excessively harsh, but this icon objectively sucks.

Why do you consider it as schlock?


In short, because he eclecticallly blends several different styles of iconography and pursues his own aesthetic, which in iconography is generally frowned upon.  As Sharbel said, it looks like an illustration from a children’s book.  The icon doesn’t come across as an authentic expression but rather as a pastiche of various styles of iconography.  Indeed, it almost comes across as satirical; some of the approaches he uses in depicting the face of St. Cyril are commonly used by political cartoonists.

Quote

I respect his piety and devotional practices but the homegrown style he is using to me looks cartoonish and farcical.  There is no way I could approach those icons with a straight face.  Which is a pity, because the lengths he goes to to make his own pigments and so on are impressive.

Ethiopian icons:






I absolutely love both of these icons; they are faithful to the Ethiopian iconographic tradition.  The Ethiopian icon of the 60 new martyrs killed by ISIS brings me to tears.  Ethiopian iconography I find to be incredibly beautiful; it is a distinctive, organic tradition that is both a profound expression of Orthodox Christian spirituality and also the apex of sub-Saharan African artwork in general.  The musical and artistic traditions of the Ethiopian church are surpassed only by the astonishing piety of the Ethiopian people; they live on a tiny portion of the food we westerners enjoy, they earn very little money, and yet they are able, blessed by God, to stand in Church literally all night for vigils.  Ethiopian liturgical services, in Ethiopia, can last 24 hours.  And the praying Ethiopians are watched over by these astonishingly beautiful icons.

Quote

I am not a fan of Taize, musically, liturgically or otherwise I have to confess.
Well, one of the first icons I've ever head was the one brought by my sister from Taize, Christ and saint Menas. They also use some Orthodox chants, e.g Evlogitaria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXHgnlsJ2pc

The death of brother Roger moved me a lot, but that's a separate story.


I need to reappraise Taize based on what you are saying about it.  I had historically respected Brother Roger but I was not entirely comfortable with some aspects of it, but this was because I have not been, not have I known anyone, until now, who had any contact with it.  I do have some recordings of Taize music in my library which  struck me as being beautiful.  Your endorsement would be enough to cause me to re-evaluate Taize entirely.

Quote
And well, Dominicans, at least in Poland, tend to mix Novus Ordo, Latin and Eastern traditions. They attract young people.

This is interesting.  In the Western US the Dominicans do a very good job of attracting the youth, but there are a number of highly traditional Dominicans, who have been particularly successful with the youth, who are closely connected with the traditional Latin mass movement on the West Coast, and at the Dominican college in the Bay Area one can routinely attend the traditional Dominican mass, which differs from the Tridentine mass in a number of areas.  The Dominicans out here also tend to be pretty hardcore when it comes to following the scholastic tradition of Thomas Aquinas, and this also attracts the youth.  In California, contrary to what one might expect, the more liturgically traditional Catholic parishes and educational institutes seem to be more popular among young people, particularly in the Bay Area.
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.

Offline Alpha60

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #38 on: November 11, 2018, 11:39:16 AM »
Yeah, I think my Western-ness is failing in this regard.  Scottish-Celtic is more what it reminds me of.  Which may indeed resonate with some people.  Just not me personally.

I do think it's weird the way some people talk about Western heritage as if someone of West European descent in the US or Canada will have a genetic predisposition to something painted in a style from 10th century France or Ireland.

Indeed; if this is the case I must be, unbeknownst to everyone, secretly Egyptian, because my favorite icons of our Lord generally are Coptic.  But I must also be part Greek, since I also love Byzantine icons.  And I must surely by part Ethiopian given that not only do I love their icons, but also their coffee and especially their delicious cuisine; you can’t beat fresh injera with some good spicy wat stews.  And I must be part Syrian because the Rabbula Gospel astonishes me with its beauty.

Or alternately, as you point out, the idea that our genetic heritage determines which religious iconography we will prefer is completely wrong and probably a bit racist.
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.

Offline juliogb

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #39 on: November 11, 2018, 02:52:45 PM »


When you guys mention georgian icons, are you thinking about this kind of iconography?

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #40 on: November 11, 2018, 04:12:19 PM »
Or from a Romanian village



Or some Lemko icons

Pray for persecuted Christians, especially in Serbian Kosovo and Raška, Egypt and Syria

My Orthodox liturgical blog "For what eat, while you can fast" in Polish (videos featuring chants in different languages)

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #41 on: November 11, 2018, 05:24:04 PM »


When you guys mention georgian icons, are you thinking about this kind of iconography?

That icon is incredibly beautiful.

Or from a Romanian village



Or some Lemko icons



The icon of the Crucifixion moves me to tears.  I should like to see more Lemko icons, and the interior of Lemko churches.  By the way, aren’t most Lemkos members of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church?
"It is logical that the actions of the human race over time will lead to its destruction.  I, Alpha 60, am merely the agent of this destruction."

- The computer Alpha 60, from Alphaville (1964) by Jean Luc Godard, the obvious inspiration for HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. 

This signature is not intended to offend any user, nor the relatives of Discovery 1 deputy commander Dr. Frank Poole,  and crew members Dr. Victor Kaminsky, Dr. Jack Kimball, and Dr. Charles Hunter.

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #42 on: November 11, 2018, 05:33:34 PM »
By the way, aren’t most Lemkos members of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic Church?
In Poland most of them are Orthodox. The rest of them in Poland are members of Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #43 on: November 11, 2018, 09:58:52 PM »
Yeah, I think my Western-ness is failing in this regard.  Scottish-Celtic is more what it reminds me of.  Which may indeed resonate with some people.  Just not me personally.

I do think it's weird the way some people talk about Western heritage as if someone of West European descent in the US or Canada will have a genetic predisposition to something painted in a style from 10th century France or Ireland.

Indeed; if this is the case I must be, unbeknownst to everyone, secretly Egyptian, because my favorite icons of our Lord generally are Coptic.  But I must also be part Greek, since I also love Byzantine icons.  And I must surely by part Ethiopian given that not only do I love their icons, but also their coffee and especially their delicious cuisine; you can’t beat fresh injera with some good spicy wat stews.  And I must be part Syrian because the Rabbula Gospel astonishes me with its beauty.

Or alternately, as you point out, the idea that our genetic heritage determines which religious iconography we will prefer is completely wrong and probably a bit racist.

Do you mean to say that Symeon or I are being racist in what we've said or done? If you're applying this sentiment to me or him, it seems like a straw-man argument, since I for one agree that's a strange attitude and it certainly has nothing to do with anything I've said.

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Western Iconography
« Reply #44 on: November 11, 2018, 10:21:15 PM »
In short, because he eclecticallly blends several different styles of iconography and pursues his own aesthetic, which in iconography is generally frowned upon.  As Sharbel said, it looks like an illustration from a children’s book.  The icon doesn’t come across as an authentic expression but rather as a pastiche of various styles of iconography.  Indeed, it almost comes across as satirical; some of the approaches he uses in depicting the face of St. Cyril are commonly used by political cartoonists.

...

I absolutely love both of these icons; they are faithful to the Ethiopian iconographic tradition.  The Ethiopian icon of the 60 new martyrs killed by ISIS brings me to tears.  Ethiopian iconography I find to be incredibly beautiful; it is a distinctive, organic tradition that is both a profound expression of Orthodox Christian spirituality and also the apex of sub-Saharan African artwork in general.  The musical and artistic traditions of the Ethiopian church are surpassed only by the astonishing piety of the Ethiopian people; they live on a tiny portion of the food we westerners enjoy, they earn very little money, and yet they are able, blessed by God, to stand in Church literally all night for vigils.  Ethiopian liturgical services, in Ethiopia, can last 24 hours.  And the praying Ethiopians are watched over by these astonishingly beautiful icons.

Thank you for taking the time to put forth a reasonable and understandable explanation for your reaction here. I do enjoy seeing where you're coming from.

I'm still not convinced though. If I understand your point, it's that iconographers should not introduce new stylistic elements, but be faithful to what was received. I assume you allow some degree of development though, since you appreciate different styles. I take it that you're OK with very gradual, evolutionary progress, where each generation produces something hardly different from the one before, but after centuries unique traditions emerge. If that's a fair understanding of where you're coming from, I'm not convinced that's how things happened. Ethopian icons are noticeably inspired by Coptic icons, but clearly different. It didn't happen gradually though, it was a rather abrupt change in their music, rites, art, where the Ethiopian rite emerged as distinct from its source quite quickly. For a subtler example, Rublev's style is a noticeable departure from what came before, that caught on so that much of what came after in Russia was influenced greatly by his work. The Red Sea icons emerge as a masterpiece at St. Anthony's without any clear evolution to them. It seems a broader degree of expression was the norm rather than the exception, just like there was a multitude of rites, before the Byzantine world became much more standardized. It seems that your argument would have labeled all of these examples as schlock when they emerged, only ceasing to be so after they'd endured for a few centuries and become ingrained.

I have no idea if that will happen with the style Symeon has developed and is developing, but I respect him for returning to the earlier practice of being who he is, where he is, receiving what is traditional, and expressing Orthodoxy as who is, rather than reproducing something from a foreign culture. It has nothing to do with DNA. Nothing would be different if he were of Greek or Russian descent (assuming he isn't), it's about culture, about organic expression of the unchanging faith within the lived cultural milieu.

If I hadn't become used to Byzantine icons for many years, and I saw a Russian icon where the body is very elongated, I might say many of the things that have been said here... that's cartoonish, the proportions don't make sense... But none of us say that because we're used to it and to some degree get the meaning conveyed by it. I still don't see any of the objections laid against his icons here as any objective reason they're wrong or bad, that couldn't be applied to so many examples of icons that are labelled beautiful because they're ancient and we're used to their conventions. I personally don't see what you''re saying about political cartoons in the face... but I'm no artist.

In any case, I really don't get the strong negative reaction to his trying. I think of: "So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; 39 but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 38-39). If some people are excited about it, great. If it comes to nothing, OK. But I don't see any danger here when he's so careful to stay within tradition in what he conveys, in worrying that his artistic style is going to destroy Orthodoxy or something to be so strong in expressing distaste for it. I get that most people are very, very comfortable with the icons they've known their whole lives. I don't expect that people who only think of Italian portraits as icons are going to suddenly change that in their 80s. But I don't get the attitude that Byzantine icons are for everybody, and people saying they can't understand why he feels Byznatine icons aren't just the universal expression for all cultures, that anyone can relate to. Feels like talking to the father in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".