Icons illuminate strength and resilience of women

An ancient and enduring art form has captured the strength of women of scripture, through the work of a Tasmanian iconographer.

Catherine Sandric has long been intrigued by religious icons, captivated by the complexity of their rich layers.

Often referred to as the ‘windows of heaven’, iconography uses imagery to convey religious concepts and ideas or to depict events or people of faith.

“In religious icons the subject matter, the colours, forms, symbols all carry hidden levels of meaning,” she explained.

“Icons are a window to the spiritual, evoking the communion of saints, the holy angels and God Himself.”

Ms Sandric’s collection, Her Dignity, featured 12 contemporary religious icons in an exhibition earlier this year.

“In researching the pieces, I read, reflected and prayed about many stories of women of faith named in the scriptures from the Old and New Testament,” she said.

“I thought about their character and faith that allowed them to endure and resist cruelty and injustice. I thought about what would communicate what was most essential in the character and narrative of the women of scripture to highlight their faithfulness. I planned and wrote the images in pencil – including the symbols and context in a stylised way – so as not to overshadow the figure of the woman. In each case the woman is in the foreground to emphasise her resilience and strength in the face of adversity or challenge.”

Ms Sandric said she felt called to write the icons for the exhibition.

“I wanted to illuminate the stories of six Old Testament and six New Testament women that I have found so compelling,” she said.

“Each is an example of resilience, and nonviolent resistance against those who would silence their unique voice of faith and integrity. For me, each one is a beacon of beauty, goodness and truth.”

Ms Sandric said there were many more women in the scriptures she would like to research and work with to create further icons.

In keeping with tradition, Ms Sandric’s icons are painted on wood panels and layered in colour hues following the spectrum from dark through to light.

“Art and prayer are both better shared with others,” she said.

“I find it helpful for my own spiritual journey to study and reflect on the lives of women of scripture who despite their struggle and personal challenges were able to listen to the voice and signs of God and be open to God’s will. It was an uplifting and joyful experience to share these narratives of faith with a wider audience.”

Ms Sandric’s works are in private collections as well as at Calvary Hospital Chapel and in Jireh House, both in Hobart.

Iconographer Catherine Sandric at her waterfront exhibition in Hobart. Photo: Naomi Leach.
Iconographer Catherine Sandric at her waterfront exhibition in Hobart. Photo: Naomi Leach.
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