Jadranka Ahlgren: New Icon

Nurtured in the practice of the Orthodox Church, for many of us still today icons are the enigma. Leonid Ouspensky, a Russian icon painter, defines them like this: “The word icon is of Greek origin and means ʻfaceʼ, ʻpictureʼ. At the time of the foundation of Christianity in the Byzantine Empire, the word was indicating any representation of the Saviour, the Virgin Mary, saints, angels, or the events of sacred history, whether it was a sculpture or painting, regardless of the applied techniques … The Church confirms that the icon is a consequence of the Divine Incarnation, it is grounded on it and consequently belonging to the very essence of Christianity and inseparable from it …” (L. Ouspensky: “Theology of icon”, Hilandar translations no. 33, Monastery Hilandar). Icons are always varied from ʻordinaryʼ to masterpieces, from folk art to the elite one at the royal courts.

To describe the work of Nikola Sarić we use, in fine art, almost forgotten terminology: an act which transmits the sound of timeless eternal beauty, captures with hope and faith in the triumph of good, justice and beauty over evil, invigorates us and gives us back lost security and self-esteem. Monumental and mystical, in the best Byzantine tradition, with saints “bathed” with the spirit of the future beauty and glory of the world beyond, his work celebrates and represents the faith of the saints-. Large format works, done in the technique of acrylic on canvas on the theme of Akathist to Saint Demetrius, are full of refreshing tranquillity and beauty. The works are done in the classic manner of Byzantine frescoes, or even better: the elegant Roman wall paintings. Great auras and white tunics of saints and angels give these frescoes much inner light, supreme peace and elegance. What is immediately apparent here that beside this visible space also exists other space and light “of the other world” with its indestructible glow, tidiness and beauty. The artist illustrates saints, Christ and angels as beings with big, beautiful bodies, and huge eyes with a kind, calm and satisfied look. These images provoke in you something like love at first sight, it is difficult to achieve with a conscious commitment but it is more a matter of innate talent. All the details in the image are developed and in function to boost overall impression. All this, is in the function of presenting the story of the saint’s correct moral position and majesty. The specificity of these images is their holism, everything in them exist together, space and light, time and events. The presented icons are kind of paired images, symmetrical scenes. This is emphasized by the identical format, similar composition and colour. This radical act of the artist, his decision to create his works the way he did, that his ambition destroys false peace of previous small artistic ambitions in the field of iconography and frescoes, is an act of freedom and modernity. This exhibition gives back hope that the icon and fresco painting will find the strength to revitalize on the clever and rich way, and it promises this young author by bringing news and a personal touch to his work.

2010, written by Jadranka Ahlgren, architect and writer