The image unveiled
Publish date 29-07-2022
After a few years of pause due to force majeure, from November to the end of January a new iconography course was held at the Arsenale della Pace proposed by our Iconographic Laboratory. 10 students and a volunteer iconographer participated who helped the teacher and accompanied the students. Together we have each created an icon, following the model of Jesus Pantocrator as represented in the sixth century icon kept in the monastery of St. Catherine of Sinai.
I think it is more beautiful to hear it from the students themselves.
I have learned over time that writing an icon requires patience, that I cannot reach the goal with a few brushstrokes, but I have to understand, evaluate, try, observe, add, retreat, correct, refine and much more ... The same patience that I have to have with myself when I want an all-in-one inner change.
I have learned that the moment of crisis almost always comes when I only see a big mess and then I need the courage to hold on, taking a little distance, evaluating the good and what needs to be corrected ... and start again.
I have learned that sometimes I just have to scrape off part of the image or even all of it with a scalpel and start all over again, a difficult and painful but also liberating operation.
Amazing how all of this looks like LIFE!
What I would like to express in an icon of Jesus is his gaze on us, a good, compassionate, intelligent, profound, benevolent gaze; and I will not stop chasing him, even knowing that he is unattainable in this life.
I sincerely thank Chiara who guides us in this splendid work with her competence and wisdom and she does not stop reminding us that prayer is the background music.
I sincerely thank Sermig in which I find every time the joy of seeing "GOOD DONE WELL".
I address a smile to all of us who, at an adult age, wanted to sit at a bench to humbly learn something new that we had perceived as precious for our soul.
I wanted enormously to confront myself with the creation of an icon. I wanted to be silent with an icon. I wanted to pray with an icon. This was what I wanted.
The desire to confront myself directly with painting was born from reading the book "In the beginning was the joy" by Mathew Fox, in particular the chapters of the Via Creativa.
From the very first meetings, however, I had to confront myself with the judgment that I kept putting on myself for how I was making the icon. Going from happiness to despair for the parts I couldn't do. Sometimes I would also wander around the room to "check" the other icons to see how they were coming. I do not hide that I was trying to understand that I was not the worst. But the eyes of my Christ continued to look at me. He stared at me and I stared at him.
When we started embodying the face, I went through the worst moment. At the end of the meeting it seemed to me that the second light had ruined everything. But those eyes kept looking at me always without judgment. I closed the box and I said to myself: it doesn't matter next time we will go on, then next time I saw it transformed and for that I thank you.
I think that moment was a bit of a turning point. That icon was no longer mine alone, it became everyone's and in that moment I felt my self diminish: I was no longer the center, but Christ was the center.
In the last two meetings Piera told me: "I no longer hear you breathing heavily while you paint". It was the best thing I ever heard of during the course.
Those silent eyes of Christ have begun to speak.
Now in the morning I meet those eyes and repeat: not mine but your will be done.
It was the first time I approached this type of art, so the icon created is for beginners! It was a dream left for retirement. These are the reasons: to enter the Churches and see an icon, to try to understand it more deeply and to know what it wants to communicate in order to pray, as well as to know a little of the great iconographic tradition of the Eastern Christian Churches.
Painting means choosing a subject, thinking about him, being with him and being inspired with his own baggage of experiences, thoughts, emotions to express and communicate them. Starting each meeting with the prayer of a passage from the Gospel and a thought from Ernesto to gradually accompany us in the activity made me understand the importance of entrusting our daily actions to God. We lent our hands to write and spread the natural colors with the brush and say something about Jesus. Silence allowed us to enter the subject: Jesus, to make Him emerge slowly, with successive superimpositions of colors, lesson after lesson from the table of colorless pinstripe wood, guided together and individually. Our teacher has always seen what was good in our work, in the face of mistakes she encouraged us to try again and again until our painting skills were expressed at their best and we were happy. Recurring question: "Are you happy?", as if trusting and being happy with work were important to write an icon!
It is interesting to see that by painting you can correct the color, remove and add, darken and lighten, soften or highlight, delicately enter into the details as you can do in the folds of our spiritual life. Writing the icon, especially the face, I understood the importance of patience, constancy, transparency, lightness, to be used not only for painting, but to be lived in everyday life to meet Jesus in others.
Thanks to the brotherhood of Sermig for the opportunity to get to know this art in a way that is faithful to the iconographic tradition. Thank you for the opportunity to deepen the spirituality of Sermig, which also corresponds to my needs. Thanks for the friendship, for the prayer and sharing of this beautiful experience. I will keep it forever in my heart!
Approaching the writing of an icon turned out to be an intense and complex journey.
What is acquired during the course is only partly an artistic teaching and manual skills. What is received most is a deepening in faith, supported by the climate of recollection and the targeted reading of a passage from the Word of God and a prayer, at the beginning of each lesson.
I discovered the beauty of letting myself be guided by the teacher, Chiara, who is very familiar with the wisdom preserved over the centuries by iconographers. She was able to accompany us with gentleness, patience and competence, making us look out into the world of icons.
It was very nice to be part of this heterogeneous group, united by the deep desire to learn.
In the final sharing with the other participants, we realized how much the writing of an icon has a bearing on one's personality and life. Each underlined different aspects that gave meaning to the work: lightness, obedience, patience.
At the end of the course I realized that during the first lessons, due to inexperience, I paused and gave a perhaps excessive weight to some details which, proceeding with the work, have become not very visible, almost disappeared under the subsequent passages of color. Perhaps I could have devoted less time and energy to the first steps, and I thought that even in life, sometimes, this happens: it happens to put time and energy into something that time relativizes and, in the general picture of life, reveals itself less. significant, there was no need to worry about that. On the other hand, I also thought that, in life as in the passages of the icon, even the most invisible layers contribute, hidden below, to lead to the final result.
Writing my first icon was exciting.
Both in terms of the spiritual aspect and the more technical one.
It seemed to me that there was not much difference between the two aspects because they are very closely linked: the sacred image is slowly revealed through almost transparent brushstrokes and signs that slowly give light to the face, hands, clothes. And slowly bringing out the face of Christ was another way of praying.
To enter this spirit of prayer, the initial moments of the lessons were fundamental in which we read some passages from Sacred Scripture and meditated on them through Clare's words of faith.
This was also a path: each piece was chosen with care, precisely to better enter and give meaning to the pictorial and spiritual part of each encounter.
The aspects that touched me most were the lightness and transparency. The image of the icon emerges transparency after transparency, with extreme lightness.
I have thought several times that one approaches the sacred lightly, but also life, the people I meet it would be better to approach in this way.
It seemed strange to me that repeated and enlarged almost invisible brushstrokes would make the image of the Lord visible. I thought that this was precisely the heart of Wisdom, as we meditated in a lesson, which "is a spotless mirror of God's activity and an image of his goodness".
As Ernesto Olivero wrote, the icon "is not a painting, it is an encounter". It was just like that for me too.
From this course I learned that lightness leaves its best mark, that passing and repeating the colors one on top of the other is like praying while repeating prayers, each time it is more limpid. I learned that the icon asks for obedience and only through it art manifests itself. Chiara valued the only positive thing in a series of my mistakes, her positive gaze made me reflect on my tendency to see only the error, the negative and not the positive. Making an icon is praying in a way I did not know, letting the face of Jesus emerge in the painting proceeded together with letting it emerge in my heart.
An experience of rule and spirituality.
If I consult the dictionary, I discover that metaphor is a mental image that allows you to give meaning and interpretation to an otherwise too complex concept! Here, through the writing of the icon of the Christ Pantocrator of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai, I discover that I can transform the mental image into a real image, I can create with my hands an instrument that leads me to God. puts you in contact with another world, with the portrait of Christ looking right at me! It is my prayer tool and I need it.
This face strikes me precisely for its asymmetry which is not lack of symmetry but the representation in the same face of two natures of Christ: human nature characterized by physical and moral suffering and divine nature, which is captured by the serenity of the gaze and the refinement of the complexion.
In it I see a similarity to the reality of how this course went for me. On the one hand, my human practical difficulty in drawing: insecurity in reviewing the handwriting, too thick lines, lack of lightness in brushstrokes and shading. All lived, unfortunately, with a sense of anxiety that sometimes blocked my breath and did not allow the fluidity of the hand. And in this situation the relief of a help that for me came from above and that manifested itself with the intervention of the teacher, who with humility and skill, experience and kindness, straightened the crooked line, erased the burr, restored the damage painting and restored the divine aspect to the face. And the icon has been transfigured!
This was a path that made me understand parts of my personality, it was like walking a road that was sometimes straight and sometimes winding, just like life can be, it put me in contact with new and interesting people, it gave me deep emotions .
Writing an icon of the Master was a very profound spiritual experience, participating in His suffering, with the dignity of a prince who accepted everything.
For me, the badly used scalpel at the first lesson could have been a reason for blocking, but I found the strength to resist. For years I had wanted to participate in an icon course held at Sermig and last year I absolutely did not want to miss the opportunity. It was nice to learn the names of those who participated until they felt like brothers in Christ. Thank you, for giving me this opportunity for profound prayer in the silence of the Arsenal of Peace.
Chiara Dal Corso
NP March 2022