"It is not the purpose of the icon to touch its contemplator. Neither is it its purpose to recall one or the
other human experience of natural life; it is meant to lead every human sentiment as well as reason and all other qualities of human
nature on to the way to illumination."
—Ouspensky and Lossky, The Meaning of lcons
Close and careful study of icons and their technique has made their reinterpretation an inevitable challenge for me. It is both part of my cultural heritage as well as a longtime, personal fascination with spiritual objects and universal symbols. Using their formal and structural elements as a departure point, I have worked to create paintings in which symbols could be recognized and reinvented so they may reflect the character of the time in which they were created.
My paintings betray a fascination with geometric abstraction, a preference for modernism and an acute awareness of historical context. There is no doubt that my family's rich cultural background has broadened my perspective. But every generation searches for its own vocabulary. I feel that one must assimilate knowledge of the past in order to elucidate the present. It is my attempt to create a synthesis of the things which I find meaningful in order to create a new ideal and a personal aesthetic representative of my own generation.
Turning to icons is just part of the story. Somewhere in my travels I discovered some x-rays and decided to try incorporation of these "bodies" in my paintings. First collaged and then painted into my images, these intricate and very evocative forms allowed me to introduce the human figure in the abstract. They provide the template for everyman.
Suddenly, the perspective had changed. The combination of using body parts in the abstract to create modern icons has afforded me a new universal symbol unavailable to previous generations of icon painters. Viewers can now interpret these paintings in relation very specifically to their own selves.
It it in this spirit of discovery of modern symbols and their meanings which a new art can be created.
Christina Saj is a painter who lives and works in NJ. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence and an MFA from Bard College. Early in her career, she mastered the technique of Byzantine Icon painting, having studied with Ukrainian icon master, Petro Cholodny the Younger. Her contemporary interpretations of icons have been widely exhibited including such venues as the American Bible Society, Union Theological Seminary, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, The Museum of Biblical Art in Texas, The Ukrainian Museum in New York, Museum of Cultural Heritage, Kiev Ukraine, the American Embassy in Qatar as well as at the White House. Her works reside in private and museum collections in the US and abroad. More of her work can be seen at www.christinasaj.com.
Works of Christina Saj
Christina Saj's Website
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