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.


  1. Love Icons. I have no idea how I missed Lynn's post or the give away, sigh, but there it is. I guess I was too busy being away and then terrified of having my knee done.
    Still tired but I think that is the after affects of the anesthetic. Doing my exercises and being a good girl (I think!)

  2. R_As always thanks for trawling the archives etc and coming up with stunning introductions. I really just love those eyes - so haunting. And again with Misty Mawn's work - it is the messages in the eyes. B

  3. The first eye is going to be looking at me all day after I've switched the computer off! Just wonderful.

  4. Eyes always draw me into a work of art. Eyes are the window of the soul. Some cultures paint red around the eyes so the Spirit can easily find Its way in. These are great works. The altered books make one want to look inside to find the essence of the soul of this artist.

  5. Shimmering...

    I am seeing mosaics here in my minds eye.

  6. robyn , what a terrific follow up post. you know I too am an Icon lover! I would like to see more on the Ethiopian Icons! they are my favs. thanks so much for again introducing us to new people!

  7. wonderful post and Mistys style has changed quite a bit, nice to see, love Papka's work too!

  8. I'm totally not religious, 100% atheist. Nevertheless, I find the techniques of makeng this art interesting.

  9. Ludmilla's work expresses so much of an entrapment behind the material that feels powerful to me, and mysterious both. Love the second image!

    I read an artist interview on sunday and she too brought up Russian Icons. If i find it i will bring it to you.

  10. powerful imagery...the "eyes" have it for me!

  11. Wow, I love the "eyes"....and I had not seem Ludmila's work before...what a treasure to see, as well as the other artists!

  12. Nothing is as expressive as the eye. We speak wonders through our eyes, just like we see wonders through them.

  13. wow Ludmila Pawlowska's work is haunting. The textures and the stillness of the eyes are wonderful, thanks for sharing her.

  14. Inspiring as always, Robyn. Your collecting powers are keen; always enlightening to visit. Thanks and blessings!

  15. Thanks Rebeca.

    Penny, so sorry I didn't mention the giveaway to you Penny. My mind is in a fog... blog.

    India, indeed!

    Barry, the traditional icons are usually about the eyes too..... and in Ethiopia the icons are definitely all about the eyes. I'm passionate about Ethiopian Icons.

    Annie, that eye seems to bore into one's soul doesn't it?!

    Lisa at Greenbow, I will keep a look out for the red paint around the eyes. Interesting!

    HHnB, yes! Mosaics would be good.

    Lyle, I knew you would enjoy this post!

    Cat, though Misty's icons are different to her usual work they still have that Misty stamp don't you think? They are so beautifully serene.

    Wim, the thought of ancient icons being painted with a one hair brush amazes me.

  16. Mansuetude, is that you on Tumblr? It must be :-) I would love you to bring me the interview. Thanda.

    LauraX, yes, it certainly is about the eyes.

    Lynne H, the African piece certainly says Africa doesn't it?!

    Cynthia, I found Ludmila's work a while ago and then when Lynne wrote the report for the guest post I knew it was time to post her work.

    Stevie, I'm looking at your eyes in your profile photo and thinking warm, friendly and humerous .... and I know I'm right!

    Lrc, glad you like Ludmila's work.

    Maggie, thank you. Blessings to you too.

  17. Inspiration for my next painting....THNKU !!!!!!!!

  18. ...it's all in the eyes!...

    I've seen quite a lot of icons...in greek orthodox churches...

    They certainly attract attention...and I can understand why people use them in their artwork.....especially for the rich colours ...

  19. Loved the post. Very inspiring!! I adore religious icons. In fact, i have a few in my home. : ))

  20. I love Raymond Papka's work!Thanks.

  21. These are really beautiful. Thanks for posting them.

  22. Oh My Gosh, these are so moving. Thank you for the work you put into your blog - it is always so educational, inspiring and just plain wonderful to visit.

    Very interested to read about Matisse's appreciation for the icons.

  23. Several years back, we were working in Madison Wisconsin (a rather pleasant city, despite temperatures that plummet to negative 30!) and I discovered a store full of icons of all sizes...some teeny-tiny, some life-sized or larger...that appeared to be centuries old. I asked the gentleman who owned the store where he'd found them all, only to find out they were all his own work, painted, then distressed/aged!

  24. i always find so much inspiration from your posts... thank you so much for including my work.

  25. Another wonderful post, with some new links to check out. Those eyes are all very mesmerizing.

  26. Robyn,

    I feel that you have introduced me to a true kindred spirit in Ludmila. I have always been drawn to eyes, "eyecons" and using words scratched into medium.......... especially after my mother died last year.

    After spending the weekend with Lynne and being inspired by what we saw at the museum, I have been trying to make the time to hunt down some modern icon "writers". Thanks for doing all of the research you do. I am busy working on one for my self portrait for Seth. This post has boosted my creative spirit.

  27. Those eyes, those eyes!!These pieces are especially appropriate during this time of year...my fave is the lst painting by the Ethiopian artist...I just love the earthy images and colors of Mother Africa. I also really like Misty Mawn's paintings...I took a class from her earlier on this yaer nad it exposed me to so many new materials.
    I have been maening to send you an e-mail Robyn...but we have been super busy looking for a place. We finally found an amazing one today so most of next week...super busy! Guess what...these apartments are modelled after an Italian villa...can't wait to move in!xxx

  28. Sylvia, now that is good news! Happy painting!

    Chris, yes the colours are amazing aren't they?!

    Manon, perhaps you will post a few on your blog .... :-)

    Blu, Raymonds work calls out to be touched. I would love a closer look.

    Femminismo, glad you enjoyed them.

    Judy Martin, thank YOU!

    Judah, you were lucky to speak to the artist. It's amazing how people can age pieces to look authentic. Some do it badly and others do it so well you can't tell the difference.

    Misty, thank YOU for sharing your work on my blog.

    Seth, lots of links and so little time :-)

    Karen Cole, now that's what i love to hear ..... that my posts have boosted your creative spirit.

    Soraya, I'm so thrilled to hear you have found a new home.Looking forward to hearing more about it.

    Sharmon, it's different isn't it?

  29. It's true,

    the eyes do draw you in...

    and the new book?

    delightful cover that also draws me in..

  30. Oh what stunning art, Robyn! I haven't heard of Misty Mawn so I am going over to her lovely store to oggle some more. I am in LOVE with Raymond Papka too! Wowza! Incredible piecing together of beauty. Also, thanks so much for your wonderful and encouraging comment on my blog. You are the sweetest! I hope the scent of roses waft into your home today...

  31. I'm actually really loving Raymond Papka here- rugged, sacred, dark.

  32. Grrl, the cover of Misty's book caught my attention to0. It's on my wishlist!

    Debrina, I think you will LOVE Misty's blog. Please go and have a look.

    Don, no surprise that you would enjoy Raymond's work.

  33. very life affirming-- and timeless.

  34. This post provokes different kinds of emotions, but although these are not icons, but paintings influenced by them, they have possess some hidden power. And it's interesting why... I Like Misty Mawn's works most, their mood and clear line. I'm not sure, but I think that Bulgarian iconography is very close to the Russian one. I like to go to church and watch the icons. In the different churches - different icons, drawn by artists with different ways of expressions and styles. I'll try to find some interesting links.

  35. ... "they possess..." - I was in a hurry, sorry!

  36. What a wonderful post Robyn. Eyes are quite fascinating. Truly the windows to the soul. Ludmila's work is amazing and I like the thought of art providing a way out of grief. I have found the same thing myself. I like the Misty Mawn book. I will have to check that one out.

  37. I love that Matisse quote. I know a woman here in the desert who uses religious iconography successfully. I have never been able to pull it off!

  38. The white Mary that Misty made blew my mind. I was so overwhelmed from the experience that I'm only just now coming back for a second look. It's been processing. I'm not able to verbalize why- it's too private- but she has affected me profoundly. What strength that image has.