Icons tell the story
Icons tell the story
July 31, 2007 11:18 AM
By Charmaine Camilleri
Divine work: Beryl Georgakopoulos. Picture: Matthew Furneaux
INSPIRED by a rich cultural heritage, East Keilor artist Beryl
Georgakopoulos has a passion for painting saints of the Orthodox faith.
The style of Byzantine iconography, which is 15 centuries old, serves
as a spiritual medium to preserve the history of icons and events in
the Orthodox religion.
''In the church, you'll see beautiful, big icons,'' Ms Georgakopoulos
says. ''As a painter in iconography, you're actually telling a story
of the saint in visual form.''
Four years ago, Ms Georgakopoulos discovered the art method she
describes as a rich, spiritual experience.
''We pray for the recipient who will eventually own the icon while we
are painting. It's a very calming and a very spiritual exercise.
''Because we are painting the likeness of a saint, someone who
reached holiness, it becomes a holy act and therefore, there is an
actual iconographer prayer that we ask God to inspire us while we're
writing the icon.''
When a painting is complete, it is taken to a church and blessed. It
is kept in the church for 40 days under the holy alter and once you
take it home, it's a blessed item. Once it's blessed, it can't be
All icons, such as the Crucifixion, tell a story and the
iconographer's key aim is to present that story visually.
''In the original paintings, you'll see items that tell the status of
their martyrdom,'' Ms Georgakopoulos said.
''St Catherine is often shown with lovely robes because she was a
wealthy woman and books are at her side because she was educated.
''But then on the other side of her is the wheel on which she became
a martyr. So when someone looks at the icon, even a young child,
straight away they've had a mini-history lesson of St Catherine.''
The materials Ms Georgakopoulos uses to paint include a mix of egg
yolk, alcohol and powdered pigments, which create an ''incredible
brilliance'' of earthy colours.
''In older times, artists used red oxide from the ground and
plants,'' she said.
Rather than a canvas, she creates her own boards made from timber
covered in linen and painted with a thick, plaster-like liquid called gesso.
Ms Georgakopoulos, a member of Moonee Valley Painters, has painted
saints Constantine, Vasilios and Maria as a sign of gratitude to her
children of the same names.
''It has given me an inner joy. It has given me the wonderful feeling
that I'm passing something on spiritually and permanently to my children.''