25 June 2014

St. Justinian the Great

St. Justinian the Great, 5x7", gold leaf and acrylic on panel.

The likeness and vesture is based on the mosaics at Ravenna and Sayidnaya. The scepter and orb portray his imperial power and authority. The scepter is quite historically accurate, based on a contemporary ivory bas relief of emperor Anastasius I, who died in AD 518, or nine years before Justinian ascended the throne. The globus cruciger is based upon historical models and really little has changed here from antiquity to modernity.

Please see more of my work at www.brianwhirledge.com.

19 June 2014

The Met

Rebekah and I had a great day in New York City. Of course, we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 
Just past the ticket counter is the ancient Egyptian collection.

I was drawn to the Fayum Portraits. These were funerary portraits of the deceased, painted with encaustic or egg tempera on wooden panels, and bound in the wrappings around the mummy. These portraits originated in  second century AD, Roman Egypt. 

 The realistic style originated in Greece, but due to the hot, dry climate of Egypt, these Fayum portraits are among the only extant encaustic paintings from antiquity. These frontal, luminous images directly influenced icon painters and are one of the art forms that developed into Christian iconography. 

Next we encountered art from classical Greece and Rome. The marble sculptures was impressive, but as a painter, I was drawn to the frescoes. These frescoes were removed from walls near Naples, Italy, and carefully reconstructed in the museum. As I mentioned above, classical antiquity developed advanced realistic painting, but little has survived outside of the arid climate of Egypt. These frescoes were preserved not by a harsh climate but by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 70, destroying but persevering Pompeii and its surroundings.

Frescoes are wall paintings created by painting into freshly applied plaster. The pigments become permanently embedded into the wall as the plaster cures. Michelangelo famously used plaster in the Sistene Chapel a millennium and a half after these Roman frescoes. 

Similar brush strokes and building light and shadows have been passed into iconography. 

The Fayum portraits and these Roman frescoes provide a great glimpse into the stunning realism that dominated the pre-Christian world. Early Christian artists took the best art from antiquity and abstracted it to depict spiritual It is appropriate to quote Kontoglou:
"We received our Orthodox faith from divine revelation and not from human wisdom, so that its art also could not be naturalistic but only spiritual."
(Fotis Kontoglou in Byzantine Sacred Art by Constantine Cavarnos)

The highlight of my tour was, of course, the medieval period, when Christian art flourished. 

A beautifully illuminated hymn from the feast of Pentecost, which we just celebrated. 

I draw influence from Romanesque sculptures and paintings when approaching western saints. Romanesque is the indigenous art of the Christian west and is a fitting, organic way to depict western saints without the forsaking rich tradition and beauty of Byzantine iconography. 

While the Met has a great Romanesque collection, the Byzantine gallery was a bit lacking. In all fairness, I did not see their collection at the Cloisters, and next month, I will be inundated with great art upon my return to Greece. 

For further reading:
Fayum portraits:

Roman Painting: 

The Art of Arts

"Byzantine art is for me the art of arts. Only this art nurtures my soul with its deep and mysterious powers, it quenches the thirst which I feel in the dry desert which surrounds us. Next to Byzantine Art, all other art seems to me light, 'distracted by many things,' while only 'one thing is needful.' That one thing, when it is perceived by someone, it is understood."
Fotis Kontoglou in Byzantine Sacred Art by Constantine Cavarnos

17 June 2014

Christ the Healer

Christ the Healer. Acrylic and gold leaf on birch panel. 18x24" 
Installation in Prayer Chapel at IU Health Goshen Hospital, Goshen, Indiana.

"O almighty master, physician of souls and bodies who humbles and raised up, who chastises and again heals, do thou forbid the spirit of sickness, heal every wound, ever infirmity, every sore, ever fever, ever pain, and seizure. Yea, O Lord be merciful unto thy creation, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

The Antiochian, Russian, and Ukrainian Orthodox churches of Goshen, Indiana, commissioned this icon of Christ the Healer for the local hospital's prayer chapel. Christ is surrounded by those he has healed: The Paralytic, Lazarus, The Leper, The Possessed Boy, The Possessed Man, The Daughter of Jairus, The Bleeding Woman, and The Blind Man. Along the borders are small icons of 15 saints associated with healing: The Theotokos, Saint Anna the Grandmother of Christ, Saint Anastasia Deliverer from Potions, Saints Hermione, Philonella, and Zenaida, Saint Sophia Martyr and Physician, Saint Luke the Apostle and Evangelist, Saint Nektarios of Aegina, Saints Comas and Damian, Saints Cyrus and John, Saint Panteleimon, and Saint Luke the Surgeon of Simferopol.

Photo of Icon by Codey Holliday.

08 June 2014

Holy Trinity

The Holy Trinity. Acrylic and Gold leaf on panel. 8x10"

"Come ye nations, let us worship the three-personed Godhead, a Son in the Father, with the Holy Spirit; for the Father timelessly hath begotten the Son, equal to Him in eternity and the throne; and the Holy Spirit was in the Father, glorified with the Son, one Might, one Substance, one Godhead, which we all worship, saying, Holy God Who created everything through the Son with the help of the Holy Spirit; Holy Mighty, in Whom we knew the Father, and through Whom the Holy Spirit came to the world; Holy Immortal One, the comforting Spirit, proceeding from the Father and resting in the Son; O Holy Trinity, glory to Thee."
-The Vesperal Doxastikon for Pentecost  Source