Monday, July 30, 2012

What Does It Mean?

What does gold leaf mean to us when it is used in a painting?  To me it means the breath of God has been added into it, but that's only part of it.  And yet is God not in every painting that an artist does, so  that in another way it becomes a conundrum if we try to actually designate or pinpoint that this or that is what the addition of the gold actually means?

Okay then, what if we set aside gold leaf for icon writing, the painting of an icon?  What if we say that this icon panel above, with this particular shape, and covered with this gold leaf should have an icon painted on it?  Then what if we ask, should it be a mundane person or human being, or should it be a saint, --- except that a saint is one who has been at once a human being, and God's own servant too?  And what if following this train of thought means in some fashion that we could actually stretch this out and encompass both the human and the Divine, and we know that it's a bridge of sorts to have this icon window?  Does this mean it's a bridge that goes only one way... or can it be two ways?

The two people I want to paint on this icon panel are my friend Mike, and his mother Lil, who are both dear people in my life, and in the lives of many others.  Here is the beautiful photograph I will be painting from, taken by Mike's father, who passed away early, when Mike was only 12 years old.

With this loving pose, does their body language or something in their eyes evoke for you Mary holding the baby Jesus, not in a way that equates them with this, but is this in some way a window to them too?  If I don't put a veil on Lil, or include halos around their heads, is part of Mary still resting within Lil as a mother, and is part of Christ as the baby Jesus still within Mike, even to this day now that he is an adult and one who has many responsibilities to others?  If I try painting their countenances on gold as if it is an icon, what will this mean?  These are only some of the questions I am constantly asking myself and sincerely wishing to explore, not only in my work as an artist, but also in my spiritual life.  It is a sincere exploration that only continues to raise more questions as I go along.

Can I make a work of art like this even as I am exploring these issues, or is there more I must actually understand, about icons, and about gold, and even about what it means to be a saint, first before doing so?  I hope I've opened a conversation about this with you, my readers, and I'd like to continue this conversation by doing a series of posts on some of the various existing religious traditions surrounding the use of gold leaf, and on the making of icons too. 

I'll close for now with an invocation.  It came to me some years ago from my Reiki teacher Delia, who has also been an important spiritual teacher of mine.  The various colors of the Ray Elohim are said by some to be the creators of universes!  Hard to even begin to wrap the mind around this application of  of gold, or this idea of the Rays in general too, expansive as it is.  In some ways the invocation itself is full of mystery, and yet maybe even within its veiled words lies its very power.

                                             Invocation to the Gold Ray

I call upon the Elohim of the Gold Ray to pour Divine Wisdom into my consciousness.  
I call upon the Elohim of the Gold Ray to reveal the weights and measures, 
the balance and proportion of the universes.  
I call upon the Elohim of the Gold Ray to illuminate my mind so it will grow peaceful  
with understanding.
May I be wise in my actions, balanced in my emotions, peaceful in my mind.


Gainor said...

Hi Mona
I love this post! I have thought of doing something similar with gold, and "icons" which would be portraits of regular people, not old saints, but actually saintly souls or angels in disguise.
Your mother and! I can't wait to see how you do this one. Can you actually paint over the gold on that panel? I've wondered how it would stick to the gold leaf.
And another question...did you put the gold on that panel or did it come that way?

Mona said...

Gainor, thanks, it's nice to hear that you have been thinking along these lines as well.

I did gild the panel (still have the sides to leaf) which was one that I custom-ordered for it's shape, and this will be an oil painting over the gold leaf. I've done oil over gold leaf once before successfully on a miniature painting, but it is still a bit of an adventure.

Gainor said...

Thanks for your reply, Mona. I'm intrigued. Oil paint...who would have thought it would stick. Does Fred Wessel paint oil over gilding or does he do ET on it? I suppose I could check that out with him, but perhaps you know.

Anyway, I'm sure this will be a wonderful painting, and I hope to follow your progress.

I am still hoping to do an ET show at the Gallery in Tampa, but I need to get better security for small works first. I'll keep you all posted as my plans gel.

Happy painting!

Mona said...

Most of the egg tempera painters who employ gilding, myself included, use egg tempera next to the gilding of whatever kind, not on top of it, and this would be the case whether it is oil gilding or water gilding. Fred offers a step-by-step demo on his website demonstrating this. It looks seamless, but it is actually a side-by-side application of egg tempera next to gilding. This is also how icon painters general work.

Painting with oil over the gold however has other advantages. It gives a different effect and when the gold is allowed to shine through here and there, and it can be jewel-like.