What People Are Saying

Mother-of-the-Sign

Christina Saj has created an icon in the modern vernacular. She has combined the serenity of an icon figure with the edgy ambiguity of an abstract expression focused on form and colour. She has created an image with tremendous presence, yet with hints of vulnerability and struggle.

Her style reflects both aspects of her training a use of abstract colour which draws from the heritage of early twentieth century modern art, and a use of some of the forms, conventions and themes of icon painting. This combination is startling. The cultural and theological values of early abstract painters and the painters of Orthodox icons are so different from one another. Interestingly, both traditions do share a consciously spiritual aim, to take the viewer into a supersensory experience, or to evoke a response of silent awe or prayer. Yet the two traditions share little agreement about the nature of the spiritual realm nor about how someone might be alerted to its reality. Their understanding of the significance of biblical narratives is often so different as to be antagonistic. To bring together abstract and Orthodox traditions is to bring together east and west, ancient and modern. Saj’s great achievement is to create a kind of synthesis between these traditions, rather than simply borrow motifs or techniques from each.

Walking on Water

She has creatively combined two spiritual artistic traditions and through them expressed a Christian narrative in a way which is neither kitsch pastiche nor nostalgic reference but a ‘meant’ religious symbol. It is an intriguing postmodern achievement that has broken the bounds of each tradition (an abstract painting with a figure in it, and an icon without a face) yet preserved and combined something of the heart of them.

Excerpt from Walking on Water, by Rachel Nicholls, Brill Publishing — Read her full analysis

 

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