Heavenly Beings: Icons of the Christian Orthodox World introduces the tradition of the devotional art of the Christian Orthodox faith in an exhibition of icons drawn from across the world. This ancient visual tradition is surveyed through 118 captivating icons, dating from 1350 to 1800.
This winter, we are thrilled to be hosting internationally renowned iconographer Aidan Hart for a two-night lecture series which explores the history of Christian Orthodox iconography and its influence on contemporary art.
Once thought by art historians to be crude and folkish, the icon tradition is now widely seen to reveal a profound world view. Icons have been described as a door; they exist not for themselves or the individual artist’s aggrandisement, but to open to us another world. Although they have been used in Orthodox Christian worship for two millennia, and despite abundant international exhibitions, books and academic papers, icons remain a mysterious phenomenon to many. In these two lectures we will first explore the function of icons and how this affects their form, and then see how they inspired many key twentieth-century artists.
This course comprises two lectures across consecutive nights; conducted live and in-person at the Gallery Auditorium. Both lectures will be recorded and available to rewatch from home.
Lecture I: Icons: Participants in Sacred Drama
Tuesday 2 August, 6—8pm
A professional icon painter for over 30 years and author, Aidan Hart will put the icons in this exhibition in their original context as integral players in Orthodox worship. He will explore how their role as mediators between heaven and earth has a profound effect on their form. Their strange forms of perspective are not the result of ignorance, he argues, but reveal a subtle and profound world view. He will describe how other abstract qualities of the icon hint at a world transfigured, a cosmos aflame with the presence of the divine.
Lecture II: Icons and Art: Abstraction and Reality
Wednesday 3 August, 6—8pm
Can icons offer inspiration for contemporary art? Although icons are made for use in church worship, they played a major role in inspiring the abstract art movements of the early twentieth century and also artists beyond, such as the filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. When icon masterpieces of medieval Russia were cleaned of their blackened varnish and exhibited, their brilliant colours and abstract forms were a revelation. We will see how the founder of modern abstract painting, Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944), and of abstract sculpture, Constantin Brancusi (1876 - 1957), both drew inspiration from the icon tradition of their home countries.
Aidan Hart has been a professional icon painter and carver since 1984, with works in over 25 countries. Born in England, he was raised in Auckland and worked as a sculptor (by the name Christopher Hart), until returning to the UK in 1983. An ordained Reader of the Orthodox Church, he is author of three books, most recently Festal Icons: History and Meaning (2022) and Beauty Spirit Matter: Icons in the Modern World (2014). He is director and tutor of iconography at The Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, London, and Fellow of the Temenos Academy.
Open to AAG Members and those with valid guest passes. Includes admission to both lectures in person, alongside access to both lecture recordings.
Includes a one-year membership, admission to both lectures in person, alongside access to both lecture recordings.
With valid student ID. Includes admission to both lectures in person, alongside access to both lecture recordings.
This event is part of our membership programme. Members receive free, unlimited entry to Heavenly Beings: Icons of the Christian Orthodox World. Join us from $55 per year.
Image credits: Artist unknown, Presentation of Christ in the Temple, 16th century, Russia, Upper Volga. Private collection, Melbourne. | Onoufrios of Neokastro, Royal Doors with the Annunciation, 16th century, Albania or northern Greece. Private collection, London. | Photograph of Aidan Hart provided by Aidan Hart.
- Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Auditorium
- Members $90, Non-Members $155, Students $50