New Roots features an Artist in Residence each month.
In August 2018 our Artist in Residence is Irina Bradley.
Irina Bradley is an iconographer, specialising in Russo-Byzantine style, who follows the traditional way of icon painting, which is regarded as a contemplative practice. It is a transformative process, which takes place not only on an icon boards, but also within the artist. Irina studied icon painting in Italy, Russia and the UK. Irina graduated from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London, where amongst other disciplines she studied Indian and Persian miniature painting, mosaics, stained glass, islimi, tiles, ceramic plates glazing and geometry. Irina’s successfully defended her doctoral thesis on the iconography of St George and the Dragon in January 2015. Irina is a visiting tutor for icon painting at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London, where she teaches at MA level, she also teaches open program courses for general public.
Irina’s work is worldwide. She has exhibited at several international exhibitions and has presented her research and icons at Christ Church Oxford, the Temenos Academy, the Boghossian Foundation in Brussels, Cumberland Lodge and the V&A. Irina’s icons are featured in an international publication Divine Temple by Kolomenskaya Versta of Saint Petersburg. Irina’s icons will be exhibited at Buckingham Palace summer exhibition from July to September 2018.
Irina’s doctoral thesis influenced her practical work not only as an iconographer, but as an artist. She started exploring philosophical ideas embedded in iconography and translated them into modern paintings. Dr Richard Temple and his book Icons and the Mystical Origins of Christianity was of great inspiration. Irina’s philosophical outlook is particularly influenced by the 5th century Christian philosopher Dionysius the Areopagite and the early ascetics, whose writings compiled in the Philokalia are included in her doctoral thesis.
The Process of Icon Creation
Irina works in liquid tempera technique, using 23 ½ carat genuine gold leaf and finest natural earth and mineral pigments, including some rare minerals, such as azurite, malachite and lapis. Her icons are finished in linseed oil or linseed oil and copal resin. However, the process of icon painting is not limited to technicalities. Irina sees the process as contemplative, where the inner beauty is revealed through materials and techniques, combined with an iconographer’s prayer.
The icons are penetrated by divine light and this concept is reflected in materials and techniques. The icons are painted on gesso boards. The gesso ground, λευκός, in Greek means “light”, “bright”, “clear” and “luminous.”
The notion of divine light is also reflected in the use of gold. Gilding techniques which Irina uses include gilding over the mixture of red bole and hide glue, gilding over Guinness reduced by boiling and painting with shell gold.
The idea of divine light is conveyed through the use of materials, where mineral pigments reflect light, thus filling the painting with it.
Irina is drawn to the translucency of the liquid tempera technique, where multiple layers of liquid paint are applied. However, an artist working in this technique strives to preserve the light of gesso through these multiple layers.
The process of painting involves moving from darkness to light, which is achieved by highlights. The highlights are painted bearing in mind the light refraction in a shape of facets.
Irina uses linseed oil and copal resin for finishing icons. Technically this is used to protect icons. However, from the philosophical perspective, icons are sealed in order to reveal the inner beauty of natural pigments.
Photographs in this article Jeanette Lendon
We are grateful to Irina Bradley for being our August 2018 Artist in Residence.