From Atheism to the Christian Faith
Alina with The Last Supper
I grew up in the over 1,000-year-old city of Kiev, Ukraine, which was the cradle of Orthodox Christianity in Ancient Rus. The city of golden-domed cathedrals, ancient monasteries, and Christian symbols was considered a “holy city” and still reflects the influence of the Byzantine civilization – in more ways than just architecture. However, nothing in my early years could foretell that icon painting would become my vocation thirty years later, in a faraway land.
Kiev Pechersk Lavra (monastery, founded in the 11th century)
Any kind of religious expression was prohibited in the former Soviet Union, which is what Kiev was a part of in my childhood days. Yet, in spite of atheistic propaganda, Christian ideals, ingrained in Russian culture for centuries, remained alive. They permeated classical literature, art, and the relationship between people. I’m now convinced that this rich heritage subconsciously influenced my creativity many years later.
Mary and Child, egg tempera and gold leaf on wood (framed) 2017 based on a 15th century icon, St. Catherine's Monastery
Since I showed an artistic aptitude from early childhood, my parents took me to various art studios that taught academic drawing, painting and a little of art history. However, my aspiration to become an artist wasn’t strong enough, and I simply followed my parents into a career of engineering.
The Miracle of St. George, egg tempera on wood, 15 x 18 inch, 2017, hand-painted frame, based on the 15th century icon from Novgorod, Russia.
My life was good, with regular ups and downs. I studied, emigrated, worked, married, travelled, and yet, nothing brought me peace of mind and lasting joy. One day ten years ago, seemingly aimlessly, I wandered into an art supply store (I still painted occasional watercolours) and saw a flier on a billboard – for an Icon Class, and a week later found myself in an icon-painting class of a renowned Russian iconographer.
Archangel Gabriel, egg tempera and gold leaf on reclaimed wood, 12 x 15 inch, 2017, hand-painted frame, based on the 13th century icon, St. Catherine's Monastery.
At first, I didn’t understand what had happened; the art of icon writing captivated my interest, and I looked for every opportunity to find more about icons. I could also observe how the cultural heritage of the country where icons were written and revered for hundreds of years, as well as the language that I am able to read and comprehend, supported my calling. But my search for meaning pulled me further, and I found myself turning to Christian literature, sacred texts and lives of saints.
The Meeting of Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed wood, hand-painted frame, 11 x 14 inch, 2017, in a private collection, Vancouver, B.C.
Although my icon-writing skills were developing rapidly, my primary interest, apparently, was not just painting, but the knowledge of God. Essentially, icons and icon writing brought me to what was the most sacred and dear to me – caring about my soul, and this yearning matured over the years.
Archangel Michael the Chief Commander, egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed wood, 12 x 16 inch, 2015. In a
private collection of Archbishop Miller, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver, B.C.
But what about icon writing? God’s will put me in this position of a modern icon writer in spite of all the odds of my routine life, upbringing and experience, and I practice this precious gift full time now, with dedication and humility. Perhaps, creating icons and sharing my love and expertise with others are the best things that I am able to do in this life.
The Wedding Feast of Cana - The First Miracle of Jesus - Turning Water into Wine, egg tempera, gold leaf on gessoed wood, hand painted frame 20 x 16 inch, 2016 Private Collection, Langley, B.C.
Icons and icon writing have brought me serenity, quiet joy and more importantly to an understanding of my previously unrecognized deepest desire. Perhaps, not everyone is destined to write icons, but if my art helps at least one person to look within himself or herself and aspire to a higher awareness, I would say that my mission as an icon writer has been accomplished.
Alina Working In Her Studio
icon painter has been accomplished.