ICON Gallery and Greek Sacred Art – via Péladan and Plato

In my last lengthy post I hinted that I would be  turning my sights towards the topic that I *almost* did for my PhD before being bewitched by Péladan: Greek iconography and its symbolism.

ICON Gallery in Corfu

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This has now manifested in the shape of ICON Gallery, a boutique art gallery in Corfu, Greece, that brings together artists and craftspeople from across Greece to showcase the Greek iconographic tradition and Greek heraldry. I own and curate ICON, which is an arts collective aiming to support and promote local talent and the artistic traditions that we represent. So far there are 15 local artists (painters, metalworkers, woodworkers and sculptors) and more are joining us weekly as the word spreads. I’m proud and privileged to be working with these amazing artists on this new venture, and in the few months since we opened, I’ve also been bowled over by the international interest in Greek icons.

ASIDE: (I won’t even go into what doing this in the midst of the Greek crisis entails, but suffice it to say, we’re determined, well-organised, and passionate enough, to be able to make a go of this despite the odds.)

Those who know me mainly in relation to my academic work on Péladan may have been bemused recently, to see me posting image upon image of icons that I have been producing. Yet this is no Pauline conversion; rather I confirmed that the roots of symbolist expression are firmly rooted in Byzantine iconography, while the philosophy behind it is found in Plato and the neoplatonists. Plato was the key to Péladan, and he is also the key to icons…. all summed up so beautifully in the magical little word “ekphrasis”. Somehow, this leads all the way to the notion of ensouled art and “art that tells a story” that is at the heart of the Symbolist-esoteric crossover.

A further important dimension of what is known as Byzantine iconography, is its visible continuity in relation to the art of Ancient Greece – figures and forms of the ancient deities and daemons were appropriated in such a way that ensured their acceptance in the early years of Christianity. One notable example is the use of Orpheus as a Christ figure – appropriate in more ways than one.

The “Good Shepherd” by any other name

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While this (historically common) process has been seen as negative cultural appropriation by some, the artist and academic in me cannot resist tracing the evolution and reading between the lines (written and painted) with a sense of wonder. I can see the potential for research, discovery, and connecting the dots with other aspects of esoteric research and the possibilities seem endless.

Some of my recent work for ICON Gallery

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Essentially icons were and are perceived as living, ensouled talismans, and the heavily stylized forms they take are intended to literally transport the viewer to a place of grace and inner exploration. The more I learn of the nature and history of icons, the more layers of meaning and esoteric concepts reveal themselves.

It is these elements that I am so excited to communicate to the esoteric-academic community, since despite the richness of the field of Byzantine studies, I feel that icons – and Orthodox mysticism for that matter – have been overlooked within the field of esoteric studies, and it’s something I’ve been very keen to work on for several years now, especially as there is some evidence to the effect that Orthodox mysticism had a decided influence on fundamental aspects of Blavatsky’s work (I’ve been sitting on this one for years, but never had the chance to explore it further).

Icons and ancient symbolism are deeply integrated into everyday life in Greece

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In short, that is the backstory to my passionate swing towards icons…. it is my own independent version of post-doctoral work, only I have the freedom to explore it on my own terms, according to my own timeline, integrated with my artistic practice which I have neglected for far, far too long.

To that end, next month I’m presenting some preliminary thoughts on the esoteric aspects of Greek icons in London at Treadwell’s, and am already discussing possible future publications. For friends wondering what’s happened to Péladan – I am waiting for the review process of my manuscript to be completed, and if all goes well, there should be updates on that very soon.

In the meantime, if anyone’s visiting Corfu this summer, do please drop by and say hello (you may well find me painting outside the gallery!). If you’re in London in July, then here’s the link to book a seat. And if you’d like an icon of your own, the ICON Art Team and I accept commissions! Visit the website for more info!

More updates as they happen…. it’s back to the easel for now!

From my studio

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PS. To those wondering, yes, I will be branching out into artwork of esoteric and pagan interest. How could I not?! When time allows though…. this is a lengthy process!