Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Watching Eye by Ludmila Pawlowska. Photo from Ludmila's website here.

Since preparing for Lynne Perrella's Icon post I have been looking at contemporary art inspired by religious icons and have found some wonderful examples.

Earlier this year the Hereford Cathedral in Britain hosted an exhibition, Icons in Transformation, featuring the breathtaking art of Ludmila Pawlowska. This is an exhibition I would loved to have seen face to face.

Why by Ludmila Pawlowska. Photo from Ludmila's website.

One can see that Ludmila is particularly inspired by the eyes in ancient Russian icons as they stare out from most of these pieces.

"You see the eyes and you are hypnotised. You can’t escape them – it’s like God sees you.” says Ludmila "Do not be frightened. They are here to watch you".

Photo from this Flickr photostream, here.

"How am I inspired by almost 1000 years of tradition and what the icon stands for? What fascinates me most in the art of icons is the deep sensitivity they radiate. When I am looking at an icon I am irresistibly attracted. Looking into the eyes of Maria's icon feels like an encounter with the unknown and boundless deep. Something awakens inside me - I can just be quiet, just lose myself in it's depth, just listen .... an unexpected insight can flow through me - an impulse, a god's presence is there. Quiet but present."

Photo from this Flickr photo stream here.

When Ludmilla's mother died suddenly in 1997 she worked through her grief by turning to her art.

"Icons showed me the right way, both emotionally and for my art".

Many of the works on this exhibition reveal text.... "Letters to my mother, because I can no longer speak to her,” she explains.

Photo from Ludmila's website here.

"Faith for me is the belief in something you cannot see,” says Pawlowska “When you look at icons you feel the presence of God, and it’s that feeling I’m trying to capture in my work.”

Painting by Misty Mawn. See blog here and Etsy shop here.

Misty Mawn, an artist known to so many of us in the blogworld is another artist who is inspired by religious icons. These are such beautiful pieces and painted in the typical Misty style.

Painting by Misty Mawn. See Blog here.

Altered book by Raymond Papka. Website here.

From early childhood Raymond Papka has been fascinated by books and unusual objects. In these altered books he has incorporated the things he loves, including his fascination with religious icons.

Altered Book by Raymond Papka

Last but not least an icon inspired piece from Africa....

This piece is by Zerihun Yetmgeta, a contemporary artist from Ethiopia. Zerihun borrows symbols from the rich images of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as well as using his own iconography. Read Article here. See Zerihun's website here.

"Yesterday I saw a collection of old Russian Icons. This is truly great art. I am quite taken by iconic paintings: I have only one thought in my head, and now we run, day in and day out, to monasteries, churches and the various collections. I am inn love with their touching sympicity.... The artist's soul emerges in these icons like a mystical flower. It is through them that we should learn to understand art. The Russians have no idea what treasures they possess. I have seen artwork from the churches of many different countries, but nowhere have i met such powerful expression, such a feeling of mystery .... everywhere the same luminosity and devotion .... " - Henri Matisse after his visit to Moscow

Misty's new book Unfurling is now listed on Amazon, and Kalahari.

Monday, November 22, 2010


All artwork in this post is created by Lynne Perrella. See website here.
Today I am honored to hand over my blog to Lynne Perrella to report on her visit to the Museum of Russian Icons in Massachusetts. To make it even more exciting Lynne is offering a generous prize for a lucky draw at the end of this post.

Without further ado it's over to Lynne.....

Our visit to the Museum of Russian Icons Massachusetts had been planned and anticipated for quite some time. Our group of ten mixed-media artists arrived for a docent tour, with plenty of time left over to wander the extensive galleries and explore the singular Collections. An earlier visit to the Museum had convinced me that this was truly an art Destination, and I looked forward to sharing the experience with some of my favorite artists, as well as an entire weekend of art-making at a nearby Inn. We had the great fortune to be guided by Laura, a young woman who is not only passionate about the artwork, but deeply knowledgeable about its history, significance and provenance. Through the words, and her patient responses to our questions, we learned about this amazing artform, the visible expression of the Russian Orthodox faith.

Whether large compelling tempera-painted depictions of the Mother of God, or the smallest jewel-encrusted pocket icon with tiny shuttered doors, to the oldest icon in the collection, an image of John the Baptist made in 1450 .... The direct, powerful soulfulness of the work prevailed, only made richer by hearing about the traditions, rituals, significance and the methods used to create each icon. Icon painters are referred to as "writers" and their secrets have been passed down from Medieval times and contemporary artists still pursue this venerated artform. So-called liturgical "calendar icons", called Minyeias, depict row-upon-row of exquisitely-detailed miniature Saints wearing their signature robes and vestments .... reportedly painted with a single-horsehair brush, as the artist diligently applied his paints "between heart beats". Under closer examination, each tiny portrait was fully developed lavishly embellished and descriptive. And although all Orthodox homes have an aptly-named "beautiful corner" with flowers, colorful cloth or shawls, and their venerated household icon; the icon tradition was also expanded to murals, panels and lavishly-painted columns, literally filling and adorning the interiors of vaulted grand cathedrals. As we walked the galleries, we encountered a procession of ancient portraits conveying fortitude, sorrow, yearning, joy, and great tenderness. One significant portrait of the Mother of God had gone through a high-tech restoration process, and it was discovered that at least three other paintings lurked beneath the surface. other icons remain in their wonderfully-imperfect state, oftentimes bowed out and irregular in shape and contour, bearing the traditional metal-crafted "cases", or faux metal cases that were imaginatively crafted with metal and glass beads. Each work provoked feelings of mystery, veneration, and awe in each of us.

Difficult to find words to acknowledge such stunning and beautifully-presented work, we were content to just walk silently through the galleries, standing side-by-side peering up into the faces of Saint George, Elijah The Prophet, Saint Paraskeva and Saint Nicholas. Considering how each image had brought incalculable solace and comfort to so many long-ago people, the intimacy of the artwork was, at times, almost overwhelming. Like the best examples of folk art and even obsessive Outsider works, each portrait possessed complexity beyond words, and yet a direct compelling gaze that seemed to say ... "I will always be here for you." The kindred experience of the exhibit provided strong connections for all of us as we spent the rest of the long weekend in a shared studio, exploring paper, copper, stitching, sketching, gluing, and painting, to name only a few of the ideas we explored. Most of all, we thought what a rare treat it was to pull away from our usual routine, and make time for art. You just might say ... The Icons made us do it!

If the idea of an art respite appeals to you, perhaps you will join me for my upcoming mixed media workshop in Taos New Mexico on February 6 - 11. The event, titled "Icons & Excess" will be an opportunity to explore this bottomless, nurturing and kindred theme. Discover lots of low-tech ideas that will enrich your usual work in painting, collage, journals and more; and learn all my favorite techniques for getting a lavish surface full of depth and patterning. Held at the San Geronimo Lodge in Taos, New mexico; the ultimate historic adobe-style southwestern Inn. Please contact me for more details.



Leave a comment here if you would like a chance to win the following prize in a lucky draw to be announced a week from today:

*A History of Icon Painting (a complete compendium of information about icons, replete with lots of amazing visuals).
*A Very limited-edition grouping of icon-themed rubber stamps designed by Lynne. (fewer than 50 of these have ever been circulated)
*A handmade Icon-themed embellishment tag.

All artwork in this post created by Lynne Perrella, before the visit to The Russian Icon Museum. Most pieces are included in the book Masters: Collage.

And the winner is..... Steviewren 

Saturday, November 20, 2010


So excited was I to find Olivia Parker's breathtaking images that I had to rush over to my blog and share them with you all.  See Olivia's website, here.

Pour yourself a cuppa and read Olivias thoughts here . Hurry back and tell me what you think!

"I invite those who see my pictures to participate with their own thoughts. This is not to say that whole photographs are ambiguous. I expect that each of us has a circle of meaning for each image we see. We overlap extensively for some, for others large segments remain private because of what we bring to the image from our own lives. Shadows of figures can move forward threateningly or run away. A dove- pigeon can be a symbol of peace and love, a humorous creature, or a dirty street pest depending on its context and the experience of the viewer."

"..... a schoolbook that belonged to a boy named Sam. He was trying to write but he could not resist bursting into pictures"

"When I am browsing along a gutter or entering a junk shop, and someone asks what I am looking for, I have to say that I don’t know until I see it. What I bring home may or may not end up in a photograph. If it does enter a photograph, it will be in a limited space defined by the edge of the image." - Olivia Parker

"In thinking about the way we understand both contemporary objects and old objects as well as the way people have understood objects at different points in time, I wonder at the vast changes in the human world in an instant of geologic time. In the past people primarily had to make sense out of the natural world. Increasingly there is a manmade landscape too, some of it beneficial and some of it unforeseen and chaotic. We are learning the rules of the forest, but we know little about the rules of the city dump. Reading objects, Archaeologists search for meaning in bones, earth, and stone. Today, some anthropologists try to figure us out by checking our garbage. What if each cereal box, grapefruit rind, and hub cap were perceived to have its own moving spirit?" - Olivia Parker

“I am much more interested in an old piece of burlap than a new one, for the beauty of an object is to me, in the quantity of information I can get from it, the stories it has to tell.” - Polish artist, Magdalena Abakanowicz

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Photograph by Laurent Rappa. See more of Laurent's beautiful photographs, here.

In Africa it is not uncommon to see people, especially women, carrying heavy loads on their heads and they seem to do it with relative ease. I have seen a slim woman eating fruit and talking on the cell phone, whilst carrying a baby on her back at the same time as balancing a huge basket of groceries on her head. She walked serenely with the most beautiful posture.
As children we tried to carry boxes filled with groceries on our heads but we were ungainly and most times unsuccessful at keeping the load steady for longer than a few seconds.There's deffinitely a nack to it and I think one develops muscles to do this succesfully.

"I wish I could carry bananas on my head" by Blaseur. Flickr photostream here.

Over the years we have seen people carrying everything from one small object such as a tub of margarine to large household objects such as cupboards, beds, refridgerators .... and the kitchen sink.

Photo from blog here.

Sewing machines and bolts of fabric....

Photograph by Laurent Rappa. Flickr photostream here.


Wood Carrier. Photograph by Martin Harvey. Link here.

Containers of water and laundry.....

See article by Andrew Harding, here.

20 Chickens .....

Photograph by Kassi Cowles. Blog here.


Photo by Laurent Rappa. See more here.

"This is a typical street scene. Men and women carry loads on their head all the time because it's way easier to do than carry it with your hands... the weight is spread out more evenly. I like this picture because while it looks like she is a '"traditional african woman" carrying things on her head wearing her traditional fabric, she is walking around Dakar which is a very modern city with paved roads and a Sharp Electronics billboard in the background." Ashleigh's Gallery , here.

A woman carries a whole cows head away from the market in Lagos. Story here.

"Based on studies of women of the Luo and Kikuyu tribes of East Africa, researchers have found that people can carry loads of up to 20 percent of their own body weight without expending any extra energy beyond what they'd use by walking around unencumbered" - Jessica Dweck

Thursday, November 11, 2010


The Birdwoman's Nest by Fidelma Massey. Website here

The sun is out this morning after a few days of rain and everything looks scrubbed, clean and sparkling. The stream is rushing; the baby Robins we saw testing their wings a few days ago have survived the downpour and are out searching for food; the air is crisp and fragrant with earth and lavender.

Still life project by Jessica Still. See Jessica's Flickr photostream here.

I'm in a state of wonder when outdoors or even watching from the window. Whilst typing this post I'm aware of the Hadedas on the lawn delving long beaks into the softened earth, pulling out 12 inch earthworms. They have a way of pulling the earthworms from their holes without snapping them, very carefully, inch by inch.

Jos van Wunnik. See Flickr photostream here.

I'm drawn to artists who have an affinity with nature. Jos van Wunnik springs to mind. I discovered his art and photos on Flickr some time ago and have been a follower of his photostream ever since.

Earth Mother by Jos van Wunnik. See Flickr photostream here.

The work of Patti Roberts-Pizzuto touches me. These pieces encourage me to pause and take notice of the minute details of nature but nobody sums it up better than Patti herself.

Page from the Book of Broken Branches by Patti Roberts-Pizzuto. Blog here. Etsy shop here.

"Stillness. Somehow I need stillness to see clearly, to look, to process what I am seeing. In a culture totally obsessed by the moving image, I feel rather lost in time, as I struggle visually to keep up. Our times thrive on bigger, faster, louder and we move too quickly....it's no wonder we can't remember anything in such a blur of rapid movement."

"In viewing, the work demands a one-on-one experience. These are not works that can be even remotely seen across a room, in a space shared by others...a moment of privacy is necessary to view the work, to slow down, to look, to see and to be...all alone. Whole worlds can unfold inside us when we slow down. " - Patti Roberts-Pizzuto

Inner Compass. A journal by Bridgette Guerzon Mills. Blog here.

Another well known nature lover in the blog world is Bridgette Guerzon Mills, whose art effects me in the same way as a mindful walk through a forest.

From the Heavens to the Earth by Bridgette Guerzon Mills. Blog here.

St Davids Locals by Amanda Wright. Website here.

Queen of Beasts by Fidelma Massey. Website here.

Take a look at Donna Watson's lovely post, Bound by Nature . We often pip each other at the post with similar topics .... but very different content.

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. " - Lao Tzu

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Detail of Niche Door by Robyn Gordon. Wood Carving 63cm x 70cm x 6.5cm (24" x 27")

It's been a lucky week! Three good sales and a parcel of new books arriving on my doorstep.....

A little breathing space to page through my new books before starting my next carving.

Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective, is the most beautiful book! Lee's work is strikingly different to anything I've seen before. At first glance these pieces look like metal sheets patched together but they actually consist of canvas and scavenged fabrics stretched over welded steel frameworks, stitched with wire. They are extremely powerful and one wonders where these ideas came from. What inspires an artist to create something like this?
An article by Diane Calder gives a little insight .....
"As Bontecou worked in her studio, her short wave radio broadcasted threats of attack by (cold war) terrorists or news of horrific events in Africa. Fear and anger that she had felt as a child, about the Holocaust, began to surface. “I’d get so depressed that I’d have to stop and turn to more open work. Work that I felt was more optimistic--where for example, there might be just one single opening, and the space beyond it was like opening up into the heavens, going up into space, feeling space. The other kind of work was like war equipment. With teeth. Not many people realize that. But the funny thing is that those canvases ended in German museums or Israeli ones. Just where they belonged, without my saying a thing. One of those pieces went to the Jewish Museum in New York. It was a sort of memorial of my feelings. I never titled any of these. Once I started to and it seemed to limit people to a certain response, so I didn’t continue.”

Read Nancy Natale's excellent post about Lee Bontecou, here.

Amazon link, here.
"The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable." - Robert Henri