Many want to talk about pure art as free from everything, but they themselves do not want to look where they would be able to see the One Who had them free in His image as early as before He created them
...In the icon
Instead of an introduction, let us present a challenging comment we have once heard in a conversation with an art supplier, which seems to reflect the general attitude of those who deal with art today. It went somewhat like this:
“No one today is such a fool as to prepare the paint themselves and waste their time grinding pigments with muller. Even in monasteries, nobody does this; everyone works with ready-made paints, especially acrylic!
This was said with an intention to praise and point out the technological advance in today’s art. Yet, our past experience cannot agree with this. However, when people want to buy an icon today, the most difficult part usually comes when they should be presented with the difference between the value of the icon and its appeal. Experience has shown that people very often choose a hyperrealistic copy rather than a work of art.
Although God created us to be creators, our fall does not stop manifesting itself into everything. Not only does imitation attracts us more, but it makes us feel superior and above all independent, too.
If you happen to read some article on the beginnings of plastic, you will most probably come across the following statement: “Man has become independent from nature.” Art succumbs to the same temptation as well. In the past three hundred years, chemistry has offered painters hundreds of colors—pure and stable—which can be intermixed without any danger of mutual reactions. Furthermore, it has offered the painters means that are quick to work with and through which the painter is able “worthily” to fit into the instantaneity of our modern times. The result is that modern painters often do not understand the chemical and physical reasons for the steps they follow. But the greatest loss is in distancing from tradition and losing the vast knowledge the old masters possessed.
When we were university students, at the academy we were taught that today art has managed to overcome thinking, which identified art with handicraft, and it has grown into something dignifiedly called “pure art”. However, today—when looking back on the past—we ask ourselves how it is possible to achieve such success and yet, when facing the works of the painters from the Middle Ages, we still feel weakness and a serious need to bring the painter back to the study of his art as a craftsman.
Therefore, returning to the rare and natural minerals in the painting palette is the first indispensable step. This in itself will raise the issue for a thorough study of art from a technical and technological perspective.
At the end of the day, everyone—even those who have little experience—will learn in a very short time that nature cannot be re-created; nature is the material one should finally use in order to start creating their personal creation.
The Style we follow
The materials we use
The Style we follow
It is our wish and intention to continue the icon painting tradition that has left unparalleled masterpieces in our country from the period of the Paleologian Dynasty, i.e. the golden age of Byzantine art, which is considered to be its last bloom. This style, which was formed somewhere around 1300 in Constantinople, is characterized by classicism and a feeling for plastic modeling evident as early as the tenth-eleventh century in the works of the Macedonian dynasty, which is preserved in the fresco painting of our monastery church dedicated to Saint Leontius in Vodocha. We can confidently say that in our country the works in the Paleologic art style from the thirteenth century are an evolutionary product of the stylistic expression that had already existed in this area since tenth-eleventh century. In the process of their creation, they were inevitably determined by the artist’s relation to his local tradition. Similarly, the artistic expression present today in the icons we create can be understood only in relation with the artistic heritage of the territory where we grew up.
The materials we use
The materials used in creating a work of art are of essential importance. Only the ones who have at least once in their artistic experience tried to substitute ready-made synthetic materials with natural ones can be aware of this.
If you have just for once tried to use natural cinnabar, it is very unlikely that you will return to the numerous nuances of cadmium red. The same applies to yellow aura pigments or to the semi-precious mineral that has been the most favorite painting pigment for centuries—the lazurite. Beside these minerals, our palette contains many others, some of which are very rare, such as azurite, malachite, dioptase, goethite, chlorite, celadonite, glauconite, jasper, hematite, white lead etc.
Apart from using natural pigments in painting, we use natural materials in all phases of making the icons as well, starting from the choice of tree—linden, which as a carrier has some very good characteristics (it is light in weight, therefore suitable for easel painting, and it is free from tannins, ingredients that harmfully influence the preparation and the painted layer). We prepare the gesso out of Boulogne chalk and rabbit-skin glue, and in the end, the icon is oil gilded with 23-karat or 24-karat gold.
Who we are
The monastery church is dedicated to the feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Mother of God and to Saint Leontius of Strumica, Patriarch of Jerusalem. The site of today's church is known as a complex of Vodocha churches, because it comprises four churches that existed on this site at various periods. These are as follows: an early Christian basilica (fourth-fifth century), Eastern church (seventh-eighth century), Western church (eleventh century) and a middle Vodocha church (eleventh-twelfth century), the shape of which is kept until today.
All churches of the Vodocha complex are characterized by a specific building style—framing of broken stones among horizontally placed brick pieces, which is a feature of the Macedonian church building. In the fourteenth century, the monastery was destroyed in a tremendous fire and twice it experienced a strong earthquake—in the nineteenth century and in 1931. From 1975 to 1982 conservation and restoration work was successfully conducted, which resulted in the excavation of two episcopal baths, which are extremely rare buildings. In the history, such buildings used to be constructed only in the great spiritual centers like this monastery. One of these baths dates back to ninth-tenth century. It had several rooms and was heated through a system of floor heating, which was also the way of heating of the other bath which dates back to eleventh-twelfth century.
Vodocha is considered as one of the greater archaeological sites of ceramics. Over one thousand ceramic vessels have been discovered—along with a rich and magnificent stone decoration of the monastery—and several royal and episcopal seals originating from a mutual correspondence.
The most significant part of the monastery's history is the fact that a great number of Saints lived here and enlightened the people with the word of God. In many written sources, the names of the Holy Brothers Cyril and Methodius are mentioned (ninth century). Saint Clement of Ohrid (ninth-tenth century) is also mentioned as a Bishop of Tyberiopolis and Saint Constantine Kabasilas (thirteenth century), who later became Archbishop of Ohrid, is also on this list.
Until the fourteenth century, there was an active monastic life in this monastery, which was again revived in 1996 when Bishop Nahum was enthroned Metropolitan of the Strumica diocese. Since 2004 it functions as a women's monastery, a metochion of the Veljusa monastery dedicated to the Entry of the Most Holy Mother of God Eleusa.
Today, when looking back on the past, after the enlightening work of all Saints that used to live here, to us as monastics and to all faithful people, the most significant event is the appearance of our Metropolitan Nahum. The very same Spirit that founded the rich history of this monastery in the first centuries of its existence has also been living in the work of His Eminence since his return from the Holy Mountain. Ever since then, he renewed the Orthodox spiritual life in his diocese, which entails construction, publishing, cultural and charity church activities, as well as a renewal of the Macedonian icon painting and church chanting. On his own initiative, the Orthodox magazine Premin (Passover) is published and the official website of the Macedonian Orthodox Church—Ohrid Archbishopric is also in function. The foundation of the daily center for accepting, treating and curing addictions “Saint Elisabeth”, and the therapeutic center Protection in the village of Vodocha are a result of his personal commitment and care as well. He is particularly deserving of the overall renewal of the monastic life in the Macedonian Orthodox Church—Ohrid Archbishopric.
2011 - 2016
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