What Comes to Light

Loud Sky is an exhibition of works by five artists who have responded to engagement with survivors of institutional child sexual abuse. This engagement has included direct conversations, the recounting of stories of survival, the sharing of treasured objects, and, in some cases, the direct involvement of survivors in the making of the final artwork. The lives of survivors are made visible and imprinted in and through the works commissioned especially for this exhibition. Loud Sky is a term borrowed in part from the Loud Fence movement, which began in Ballarat in 2016 and has now gone around the world, where ribbons have been tied on church fences as a form of memory making, protest, of visualising loss, and also a celebration of human life. Loud Sky seeks to visualise the story of those impacted in the Hunter Region, honouring their courage, resilience, and instincts for survival. Institutional child sexual abuse has had a profound and far-reaching impact on this region and has directly affected the lives of many thousands of people. This exhibition gives expression to these human stories, giving them a voice and a form of visual presence. Despite the horror of abuse, these works visualise courage, containing elements of profound and great beauty.

Clare Weeks, notes to self, #07, #08, #09, #11, #13, #14, #19, #23, 2023. Digital inkjet print from scanned silver gelatin photographs, 79.5 x 59.5 cm each panel. Photograph by Ben Adams.

This sense of imprinting is found in the strategy developed by Clare Weeks, where she invited survivors to take a sheet of plain paper and imagine themselves writing a word that expresses their sense of resilience and hope. She invited respondents to fold or crease this paper into an enfolded form. Each of these was then documented through a process of numbering, unfolding, and photographing their surface and then refolding them to their original condition. Each scanned surface reveals unique, idiosyncratic, and textured features. Thirty-two members of the survivor community responded to this invitation, and each is treated with reverence and importance as objects that contain memories of great significance. They each carry a fragile delicacy and beauty. Each fold is unique and particular. This record of the physical process of remembering reminds us of the manner in which we fold up what is most precious to us. We carefully enfold our hopes as precious possessions, keeping them safe, tucked neatly below our rib cage. Clare Weeks draws attention to the manner in which human memories are transferred to objects, things we hold dear that become relics or tokens of hope that empower a sense of resilience. These are delicate and beautiful objects that reveal, as through a veil, a remarkable expression of hope.

Damien Linnane, Bob (dominos), 2022. Graphite on paper, 420 x 297 cm. Photograph by Ben Adams.

Objects that serve as vessels for memory are evidenced in an even more distilled form through the eloquently rendered drawings of Damien Linnane. Inviting survivors to share a treasured object, the artist calls for our sympathetic engagement with objects that carry a form of empowerment that aids survival. These are objects alive with resonant significance that amplify human hopes, ambitions, and pleasure. They represent relationships of love, playfulness and achievement. These are objects of power. When so much else has been taken away from survivors in their childhood, these objects operate as rudders for hope to be touched, held, and found in the present moment as a tangible form of resilience. Linnane’s drawing technique gives these objects a striking visual presence as each surface is delicately observed so that the light seems to emanate from within. These are lovingly rendered, and we sense the delight, interest, and commitment of the artist as we follow with our own eye each mark and gesture that gives life and presence to otherwise inanimate objects – these things that are alive with memory. It is a privilege for the viewer to be given intimate access to this treasured relic and its capacity for hope.

Fiona Lee, Why Bother?, 2023. Latex and acrylic paint, 98 x 167 cm. Photograph by Ben Adams.

Fiona Lee’s work presents the softly lit form of three casement windows. The viewer is placed in a stance of both looking out and looking in. This is a space of hovering decision-making about where to focus one’s attention. The particular form of the work came as a response to a question the artist asked survivors about what motivated them to begin their day, which more deeply frames questions about life’s purpose, and finding the energy for action. Honest, straightforward answers included the choice to stay in bed, or to reach towards relationships of love, or the mundane responsibilities that accompany being in community. The material of the window is a latex mould. It is like a skin, or a print, of a lead-lined casement window. It materialises the question we face at the beginning of every day – every plan, every hope, and every action – of whether it will be worth the effort to engage this day, this opportunity. To open this window involves risk, the potential for change and loss, and also the fresh air of new possibilities. Every window has this quality of beckoning the imagination. Their frames of tight geometry play out a matrix of fear and expectations, or they provide escape, freedom, or hope without restraint. This particular window holds us in the moment of decision-making, with the question of where this day might lead.

Peter Gardiner, The Fire, 2023. Oil on 300gsm Arches paper, 250 x 550 cm. Photograph by Ben Adams.

Peter Gardiner brings us into the searing presence of light and heat. The fire is a metaphor for danger and catastrophe that appears out of the darkness with the lighting of one match. This is the wildfires ignited by the Royal Commission that resulted in over 8,000 recorded testimonies of institutional abuse. There was smoke, as things were rumoured, that now appear in the light for all to see. However, the full force of this grand scene is held in check. We can observe the impact of the fire from a safe distance and begin to see that within the fire, there is the possibility of survival, renewal, and a new order of things. Fire not only destroys; it also brings new life to the environment; it purifies, transforms, and renews; it turns from red into gold. Gardiner’s work carries both horror and hope. We are in the presence of some immense catastrophe that will change how we live well into the future so that this does not happen again. It is an active vigilance towards justice that arises from a community having been confronted with the truth. No longer is there a tolerance for darkness, as there can only be light, even if it threatens to burn.

Lottie Consalvo, Silent Film, 2023. Single-channel video, 4 min 1 sec. Photograph by Ben Adams.

Lottie Consalvo’s work is a collaboration with a survivor, and his wife, around the question of what has sustained their lives. It offers a meditative exploration through silence and slow-moving gestural forms. The video-based work carries a grainy texture like paint, slowing our looking towards a more considered and contemplative place. We are in the presence of a human life, but one where each gesture becomes magnificent, primal, and beautiful. There are passages where an arm reaches out in ritual-like action, perhaps reaching for something, and then, at other times, a gesture of letting go. Without a narrative structure, the viewer has to put together this work in their own imagination as we follow the subtle shifts of gesture and the phrases of text that evoke states of silence. The artist invites us to be present as viewers of the simple beauty of silence at the heart of human existence. This is the invitation to be still and to be quiet, to have nothing, and to have everything, all at the same time. This is a space beyond fear, manipulation, and anxiety, where a human being might thrive in and through the small gestures of living. This is finding a life worth living and being grateful for that because it is enough. The silence of this work speaks with eloquence. It amplifies the beauty of being human.

This exhibition includes a timeline that lays out the history of the emerging public awareness of the abuse as well as television footage of these events as they unfolded. Words by family members of survivors that record the impact on their lives are also included, as well as a series of school photos of victims, not all of whom have survived. Against this dark and difficult reality, the work of the five artists commissioned for this exhibition offers something tangibly beautiful about the nature of being human. What comes to light is the courage and resilience of victims and survivors.

Christ Church Anglican Cathedral Newcastle installation view, ribbon flowers and bamboo. Photograph by Ben Adams.

A final expression of the exhibition’s aims was the installation of around 7,000 ribbon flowers on the grounds of both the Catholic and Anglican Cathedrals in Newcastle. Made by survivors, friends and family, and community and church members, they are an act of remembering victims and survivors. They express a desire for truth-telling and community healing. Art provides the resources to approach experiences of horror and disintegration in a manner that brings deeper understanding, shared compassion, and the possibility of a more hopeful future.

Loud Sky is on exhibition at The Lock Up Contemporary Art Space in Newcastle until 21 May.



Being Among Trees

When words fail me, being in the studio helps me make sense of the world.

This new body of work emerges from several years of attending more deeply to the life of the trees that surround and companion me every day. For many years, I have walked routinely along a path that follows a local creek, appreciating how the trees continue to hold space for me. Even as the weather changes and shapes them, we both endure. But in late 2021, I watched my neighbour excavating the land nearby and, by doing so, undermining the existence of a healthy gum tree. As the roots of this tree were laid bare, I went into the studio to paint the grief that I felt and understand the depth of my response to the inevitable loss of this tree.

It seems that in choosing to live among trees, we live within a nexus of risk and power. In being among the trees surrounding my studio as I make this work, I am becoming more deeply aware of the interdependence that shapes our life with trees. Trees welcome the CO2 that I cannot bear and, in turn, offer me life in the form of oxygen. As I learn to see how trees live interdependently with one another, I see a healthy exchange between risk and power, shaping how I can choose to live with others. I am learning to see trees in the way I see people, and I am wondering what it is like to be a being among trees.

Over the past year or so, I have been working towards developing a new exhibition set to be hung in April 2023.

Being Among Trees will hang in the Queen Victoria Women’s Centre between 3–27 April. Rather than an opening night, I have scheduled an afternoon for a conversation with the artwork and me. Further details are below:



Rituals of Embodied Knowing

Sarah Tomasetti, Rivus (detail). Fresco, pigment, muslin, and encaustic wax. From the Birrarungbanner series, 2022–23. Photo: Emma Byrnes.

The exhibition Rituals of Embodied Knowing brings together ten established artists with diverse forms of practice that engage plants, video, sound, movement, painting, drawing, and installation. These artists have been working together with an academic group on the project ‘Spiritual Understanding in a Secular Age: Engaging Art as Religious Ritual’, funded by the Templeton Religion Trust.

The project conceptualises art-making as a form of knowledge or understanding that aims to make contact with various aspects of reality such as the natural world, human history, and our individual selves, thus considering how art-making practices in a secular context might, when seen in this way, share similarities with religious ritual.

Academics from a variety of fields such as history, anthropology, psychology, sociology and theology, have identified how key dimensions of each of these practices – movement, time, media, subtraction, invention, and attention – are also leveraged in religious rituals to make contact with reality.

The project calls on us to see art-making in a new way, and has also challenged academics to see aspects of reality in new ways through engaging art-making itself as a means of knowing and understanding. This exhibition invites viewers to consider whether and how the works included could be thought about as ritual-like in their unique ways of employing embodied experience.

This exhibition also launches the new CBONE Gallery, combining the previous Eastgate Gallery and Chapman and Bailey project space into one entity that will show a range of contemporary visual art.

Joining the project artists, Heather Hesterman, Adam Lee, Louise Weaver, Dominic Redfern, Harry Nankin, Chris Bond, Peter Ellis, Mark Newbound, Live Particle, and Sarah Tomasetti, are Yolngu artist Djirrirra Wunnumarra and emerging artist Uma Christensen.

An edited volume of essays emerging from the project will be published in 2024.

Exhibition Dates: 18 February – 18 March 2023.

Where: CBONE Gallery, 1C Marine Parade, Abbotsford, Melbourne.

Live Particle (Angela Clarke and Camilla Maling) will be presenting a series of Soma Scores using their unique sensory objects to generate embodied experience on Saturday 11 March.

There will be a discussion panel and closing event on Saturday 18 March.

Wes Campbell: Disturbing Illusions of Peace

Wes Campbell, Silence II, nd.

Last month, Jason Goroncy spoke at the opening of an exhibition of Wes Campbell’s artwork. Wes is a theologian, artist, and (retired) Minister of the Word in the Uniting Church in Australia. An edited version of his talk is now available on the ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal.

Art and the prophetic imagination

Mandorla Art Award 2022. Theme: Metamorphosis (Isaiah 43.19)

In describing the winning artwork for this year’s Mandorla Art Award, the judges said:

The prophetic imagination invites us to lay aside old ways of being and sources of authority, and to imagine new futures.

Claire Beausein, Chalice, 2022. Wild silkworm cocoons stitched together with silk thread, and museum insect pins on cotton rag paper. 125 x 71 cm. Winner of the St John of God Health Care Acquisitive Prize, $25,000.

Claire Beausein, who divides her time between Broome and regional Victoria, formed her work by stitching together over 600 wild silkworm chrysalises gathered from the wild in Indonesia. Chalice is a powerful work that draws you in close to experience the glorious sheen on the work and the lace effect of the shadow and to stand away from it and see the possible image of a face that some have described as the face of Christ. Claire began her exploration with thoughts of a shroud which symbolises the metamorphosis of the human person into eternal life. From there, her thoughts developed into a search for wild cocoons. The colour range is from gold to very pale yellow, and they are carefully patterned. Claire described the process of putting the artwork together as a meditative act. Some of the silk thread used to assemble this work is intentionally visible on the surface but much of it is hidden as is so much of our spiritual development. Our various spiritual metamorphoses in life are often hidden from sight but seen in effect and in our witness to what has occurred within. The work is suspended by museum pins, reminiscent of the moths and butterflies displayed as collections, standing away from the cotton rag paper background. The curved shape of the lower edge speaks of the shape of a chalice which holds the wine to be transformed and the gold colour also speaks of sacred vessels. Claire speaks of the ‘gravitas of profound change with the fragility of lace’. These opposites are in tension as in our spiritual lives.

Michael Iwanoff, fromlittlethings, 2022. Acrylic, mineral sands, ask, grass tree resin, copper, water, linen, seeds, on wood and cotton duck. 144 x 137 cm. Winner of the Patricia Toohey Painting Prize, sponsored by MercyCare, $5,000.

Michael Iwanoff’s work, fromlittlethings, evokes the endless nature of change in all of creation, including within ourselves. He describes it as a ‘poetic meditation on the transformative seed each of us is able to sow into our awareness, experience and life’. The whole of creation is in the process of continual transformation, metamorphosis, as Paul says: ‘We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now’ (Rom. 8.22). When the work of God is finished, when the whole of creation has been returned through the glory of Christ, we shall all be one in God. What is required is to wait in hope. In fromlittlethings the hope is symbolised by the seeds held in a small bag at the base of the painting, hanging from a mantle on which there is a small copper bowl from which water evaporates. There is so much in the work that is symbolic of all manner of change, some of which we are subjected to and some that naturally flows from our very nature. In the judges’ description, they spoke of the painting holding themes of ‘homecoming, journey, and acceptance’. There is a cosmological level too in the semblance of stars, and at different angles one catches a small glittery flash of light. In Michael’s description, he speaks of ‘this metamorphosis that is honoured and that so exquisitely grows the joy of being’.

Susan Roux, Terre Verte, 2022. Photographic paper, Canson paper, PET thread, body thread, and aluminium, 120 x 60 x 50 cm. Photograph by Eva Fernandez. Winner of the Highly Commended Prize, sponsored by the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, $5,000.

Terre Verte, a particular green pigment, is revealed in the central section of Susan Roux’s free-hanging work. She begins her description with: ‘Adrift in rivers that divide and bind lands, I chart a home anew’. Susan’s original material for this work was a series of maps which symbolise the journey upon which she has personally embarked, and the journey of life that we all travel. The maps were washed and dried and stitched on a sewing machine using a completely free form of working the material. It is an extremely laborious way of building a fabric but the effect is rich and unpredictable. For Susan, it is also a deeply meditative way of working. There are structural wires inside that speaks of our own physical structure, our skeletal strength that is unseen but completely necessary for our embodied life. As the judges said:

Viewed from a distance the piece is reminiscent of a rock, geode, or even a distant universe, evoking an almost geological sense of time-scale and transformation.

Inside, however, the terre verte, the green thread used in free stitching on a material that is then washed off the stitching leaving a lace effect, is burgeoning forth. Life and creation continue in the green, growing heart of her work. This is the sense of Spirit, of re-creation, that Susan seeks. The metamorphosis marks many places in our journey. The great metamorphic actions in scripture include Abram’s journey west, the exodus from Egypt, the exile in Babylon and the return, and, of course, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. For Christians, there are many changes along the way, but the greatest is our baptism where we are changed into a new creation in Christ.

Angela Stewart, The Rider, 2022. Oil on Cibachrome archival photographic paper, 122 x 101 cm. Winner of the Highly Commended Prize, sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Perth, $5,000.

Angela Stewart’s artwork confronts you from the full distance across the gallery in the opening exhibition. There is a sense of compulsion and a desire to know the story. Her artist’s statement centres around grief, death, silence, love, loss, helplessness. Two years ago Angela’s son, a horseman, died. This artwork depicts the growth from out of the loss, the metamorphosis that grief insists upon. She will never be the same, but the horse is the symbol of the strength needed to get out of the depths of loss. It is a powerful work. In the Hebrew scriptures, the images of horses are important. If you had a horse, you went into battle with a better chance of survival than if you were on foot. In Psalm 33.17, however, we hear that the ‘war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save’. If we rely only on the things around us, the things we wrap our humanity and strength in, then we will not be rescued from our distress. It is these times that trust in the Lord is required and a time for us to move through the grief, as Angela says, to ‘recalibrate, begin, breathe, the horse, the rider, my son’. The judges’ comments say this succinctly:

The insistence of the image to be expressed captures the unstoppability of the prophetic voice – of the Divine voice – arising in unexpected places, disturbing and comforting, undeniable. This technically accomplished work plays with the inversion of light and dark, and evokes movement and disquiet with multiple images, ragged edges, and lines pulsing with energy.

The array of artworks for the 2022 Mandorla Art Award each offer us a way in which to view the theme of Metamorphosis – a profound or radical change. ‘I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?’ (Isaiah 43.19). In times of discontinuity, faith becomes an important ingredient, and this has been evident in times of radical change. With the pandemic, we have all experienced the need for change, and war and climate change continue to impact us all. Yes, we need to change and the challenge is to make it positive on the large scale as well as the small. The artists chosen as finalists gave expressions of metamorphosis that are both challenging and beautiful.


Dr Angela McCarthy is Chairperson of the Mandorla Art Award. She lives and works on Whadjuk country.

‘Splendour from Above’: Icons of Angels by Michael Galovic

I first met Michael Galovic through an icon painting workshop in the mid-1990s. His religious art not only covers a vast range of icons that draw upon his deep understanding and respect for the form from its earliest origins through to the present day but also covers contemporary work.

Michael’s most recent project has been a very challenging and self-imposed task. Its focus has been primarily on the representation of ‘the Celestial Ranks’, predominantly as shown in Orthodox art, but also with examples from late medieval, early Renaissance, and Islamic art. Each of the many wonderful images expresses what would seem almost inexpressible: non-corporeal beings made manifest. The exhibition based on this work, and which is currently on display between 9–19 March at the Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, Canberra, also highlights both the meaning and the beauty of the variety of portrayals, whether it be in terms of the images’ backgrounds or in such elements as the stunning array of angels’ wings. The icons in the exhibition illustrate a journey that is both geographical and through time.

My focus here, however, will be predominantly on his representation of two of the most significant and defining events in Christianity – the Annunciation and the Resurrection – as portrayed in the icon of ‘The Myrrh-bearing Women’, as well as the concept of the Trinity. Each image deepens one’s understanding of the religious art of the past and present, as well of a sense of tradition, while also expressing the perception and perspective of its creator:

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves – goes itself; myself it speaks and spells

Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.[1]

In terms of the Orthodox tradition, icons are perceived, Annemarie Weyl Carr observed, as participating in the divine:

As angels and saints are images of God, icons, in turn, are images of them and so participate in the emanation of their sanctity. The crucial synapse between divinity and created matter was bridged by the incarnation.[2]

The richness and variety of the icons is expressed through new iterations that nonetheless remain firmly grounded within the Orthodox tradition. The icons of the past were not mechanical copies of previous work. The tradition evolved not through meticulous repetition but through observing and understanding the symbolism and underpinning theology inherent in the creation of the icon. Each is also influenced by the time, background, and perception of the person making it.

To appreciate the beauty and theology of an icon is ultimately to be able to appreciate the immanence of God in creation:

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.[3]

The Icons of the Annunciation

Michael Galovic, Royal Doors, 2021. Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed board, 95 x 60 cm. Artist’s collection. 

Michael noted that his ‘Royal Doors’, an image of the Annunciation, is a work that has been 47 years in the making. This gives some sense of the process: it takes enormous patience in feeling one’s way into the image, as well as an understanding of the level of experience and technical skill needed to do such a work justice. It is a testament to Michael’s commitment to creating an image that brings alive the moment of the Incarnation in all its vividness and freshness. There is a wonderful balance between the sense of movement in the depiction of Gabriel, conveyed by both the pose and dynamism of the contrasting highlights, and the Theotokos’ acceptance, shown in her gently-bowed head and hand gesture.

It is difficult just to convey a sense of the intricacies of the craftsmanship required in the creation of this wonderful depiction of the Archangel Gabriel and the Theotokos. It began with the painstaking application of multiple layers of gesso to the intricately-carved wooden surface and then the gilding of the entire piece. This was followed by the meticulous translation of the drawn images onto the surface, with some parts being carefully embossed or stippled, as can be seen in the exquisite halos.

The actual painting of the image with egg tempera was a further level of challenge, with each layer needing to be completely dry before the next layer was attempted – often a matter of days, rather than hours.

The impermeability of the gold also makes it an exceptionally challenging surface on which to paint. The difficulty of the challenge is underscored by Eva Haustein-Bartsch’s comment, in her description of the Royal Door in the Recklinghausen Ikonen-Museum, that ‘what is completely unusual and probably unique about this door are the images painted on it over a gold background’.[4]

Michael has created a truly outstanding depiction of the imagery frequently used on ‘Royal Doors’, bringing together many theological and technical aspects of iconography to delineate the entry to the sanctuary, considered in Orthodox theology to be ‘Heaven placed on earth’, as it contains the consecrated Eucharist, the manifestation of the New Covenant.

Michael Galovic, The Annunciation 2, 2021. Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed board, 35 x 45 cm. Artist’s collection. 

The second Annunciation, in a more contextualised setting, also captures the moment of the Archangel Gabriel’s first addressing Mary. There is the same sense of movement as in the ‘Royal Doors’ in the placement of the feet, with the role of messenger indicated both by the rod

being carried and the hand gesture indicating speech. Mary’s gesture here is one of enquiry – ‘“How will this be”, Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”’ (Lk 1.34)

This icon again highlights that Michael’s work, while maintaining the theology and often the form of earlier icons, by no means consists of making a mechanical copy of an earlier image! The vivid light blues on a deeper blue background sweep through from the tips of Gabriel’s wings to the sleeve of his under-gown with the same tones used in a static mode in the pillar beside Mary. This contrast is repeated in the lower part of the icon, with the rippling effect of Gabriel’s hem counterpointing the ‘stillness’ of Mary’s undergarment.

Another beautiful detail is the way in which the beam of light, with its image of the dove representing the Holy Spirit, is transparently overlaid on the red cloth. Each detail is indeed meticulously placed and adds to the viewer’s understanding and reception of the image, with the draped red cloth indicating that the scene is taking place in an interior. The colour flows through to Mary’s cushion, the thread she is holding and her ‘royal’ footwear. This image again emphasises the way in which the same image (that of the Annunciation) can both take inspiration from the past and create a new and vivid image. This is what keeps the tradition alive and relevant.

Michael Galovic, The Annunciation 3, 2022. Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed board, 38 x 29 cm. Artist’s collection. 

The inspiration for the third Annunciation in the series came from a faded and almost unreadable copy of an Annunciation from sixteenth-century Russia, and which had deteriorated to the point that, while the basic structures could be made out, that was about all. Michael always enjoys a challenge.

The image is also a very unusual one in that it shows darkened apertures in both the buildings and the holes in the ground, especially the fissure appearing between Mary and the Archangel. This could conceivably be highlighting the significance of Christ’s incarnation through referencing those icons of the Crucifixion where there is a dark aperture beneath the cross, into which Christ’s blood flows, signifying the redemptive nature of his death. The Crucifixion is inherent in the Annunciation.

The dark spaces dramatically highlight the wonderful luminosity that Michael has achieved in the depiction of both Gabriel and Mary. It, possibly more than any other icon in the exhibition, illustrates the concept of feeling one’s way into the image. It required a deep understanding, much thought and subsequently a painstakingly slow application of layer upon layer of semi-transparent egg and pigment washes to create the tonality that brings the image to life.

Michael Galovic, The Blue Annunciation, 2021. Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed board. Artist’s collection. 

The fourth Annunciation is based on a fresco with a suitably-Aegean blue providing a background against which the figures and architecture stand out vibrantly, capturing the moment of the Incarnation.

These four images exemplify both the richness and diversity of traditions over at least four centuries and the value of bringing them alive in varied and beautiful iterations in the twenty-first century. While each highlights the role of the Archangel as the servant and messenger of God, as identified by the armband, and captures the contrast between movement and stasis, the nuances in the portrayal of Gabriel and Mary and the treatment of the backgrounds, ranging from the ‘uncreated light’ of the ‘Royal Doors’ to the texture and abstraction demonstrated in the three following images, exemplify the beauty, scope, and continuing significance of Iconography.

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is …[5]            

Michael Galovic, The Myrrh-bearing Women by the Tomb, 2022. Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed board, 45 x 35 cm. Artist’s collection. 
Michael Galovic, Angelic Exuberance, 2021. Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed board, 70 x 50 cm. Artist’s collection. 

From the Annunciation to the Resurrection

Gabriel’s role as messenger is also highlighted in the icon of ‘The Myrrh-Bearing Women by the Tomb’, a diaphanously-rendered image of the women visiting Christ’s tomb. The delicacy and aptness of the detail, such as the fruitfulness of the trees, illustrates the richness in the variety of the use of imagery in the context of the Resurrection.

‘Angelic Exuberance’ is another vivid expression of the Resurrection – a dynamic and powerful iteration of a golden Archangel Gabriel that captures the light and joy of the event in a contemporary image that also evokes a continuing tradition: that of the White Angel, which is a detail of one of the best-known frescoes in Serbian culture, situated in the Mileševa Monastery.

Michael Galovic, The Assembly of Angels, 2021. Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed board, 45 x 35 cm. Artist’s collection. 

‘The Assembly of Angels’ also includes the Archangel Raphael, whose name means ‘God has healed’. In conjunction with the image of Christ it highlights, for me, the nature of redemption through the Incarnation. The Christ Child is framed by an intricate rainbow-like aureole or medallion. The golden brightness in the central band of the medallion gives a wonderful vividness and focus to the work. This icon, in conjunction with its vibrancy highlighted through the angels’ garments and royal footwear, nonetheless seems to be set beyond time with a neutral background that portrays the figures as if floating in space. This feeling of weightlessness is enhanced by the folded position of the wings.

Michael Galovic, The Holy Trinity, 2022. Egg tempera and gold leaf on gessoed board, 38 x 29 cm. Artist’s collection. 

It seems fitting that the final image considered should be that of ‘The Holy Trinity’, which radiates calmness and certainty, as well as embodying a significant aspect of the development of portrayals of the Trinity. The process of the ‘three angels’ form for representing the Trinity began with icons of the hospitality of Abraham, which illustrated the visit of the three angels, in human guise, to Abraham.

This is a beautiful and elegant composition, based on a work by arguably the best Serbian iconographer – Zograf Longin. It is an icon that expresses the tripartite nature of God as expressed in the New Testament while highlighting the continued relevance and significance of the Old. Michael has dedicated a year to the completion of this project – one that needed fifty years practice and deepening of understanding for its making. He has brought alive the beauty and theology of differing traditions and forms in a way that is truly breathtaking.


Kerrie Magee has an academic background in medieval studies and education. Her interest in, and respect for, icons began in her mid teens and has continued ever since. She has been painting under Michael Galovic’s tuition for over 20 years. She has worked in teaching and gifted education. She lives on Wallumettagal Country.
Michael Galovic is one of Australia’s leading icon painters and has been commissioned by churches and individuals around Australia to celebrate the tradition of holy pictures in new and dynamic ways. Galovic trained at the Belgrade Academy of Arts as a contemporary artist while also learning the many technical steps of using egg temperas and gold leaf, required by the careful process of preparing an icon. He arrived in Australia in 1990 and has since that time had many solo exhibitions in Australia and overseas including in Europe and the USA. While continuing the tradition of iconography he has also extended his approach to include insights from the Australian landscape, indigenous spirituality and more universal depictions of the presence of God in creation. He is a careful technician able to enliven the demanding requirements of the tradition while also offering visual innovations that explore the cultural convergence required of a multi-cultural Australia. His work is always visually rich, finely detailed with a great depth of colour and form. A skilled and insightful artist exploring the spiritual through his art. (Dr Rod Pattenden). Michael lives and works on the land of the Darkinjung people.

[1] Gerald Manley Hopkins, ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire’.

[2] Annemarie Weyl Carr, ‘How Icons Look’, in Imprinting the Divine: Byzantine and Russian Icons from the Menil Collection (Houston: Menil Collection, 2011), 23.

[3] Gerald Manley Hopkins, ‘Pied Beauty’.

[4] Eva Haustein-Bartsch, Icons (Hong Kong: Taschen, 2008), 62.

[5] T. S. Eliot, ‘Burnt Norton’.