The Unburnt Bush


Thom said...

Wow. I really like this one, especially their faces. The juxtaposition of flat and shaded elements creates an other-worldly atmosphere -- which is, of course, perfect for the subject. It conveys to me that they are above this world -- both abstract and concrete at the same time. Also the way the Madonna towers over us shows the power she has through Christ. Beautiful.

I don't think I've seen all of the icons you've posted but this has to be among the best.

Could you tell us about the symbolism? I've never seen the Madonna with Child symbolized this way.

Lawrence Klimecki said...

Mary is the holy ground where God is present, she is not consumed by the fire of the divine that has come to dwell within her.
The white roses of the bush represent Mary's purity and perpetual virginity. The angels refer to the angel of the annunciation as well as the angel that spoke to Moses from the burning bush.
Borrowing from traditions in iconography I have used blue and red for the clothing, blue representing the human life and red representing the divine life. I have also incorporated the various abbreviations for the names of Mary and Jesus that are always present in icons.

Daniel Nichols said...

You should clarify that this is a religious image, not technically an icon. Icons follow pretty strict rules, and are not "made up" by the artist...

Lawrence Klimecki said...

Hi Daniel,
I appreciate what you are saying. I did not make any claims as to this being an icon. What an icon is and isn't can get pretty complicated. I have come across some iconographers who claim that only orthodox monks have any business painting icons. Clearly my image does not follow any of the canons of any of the accepted schools of iconography. However as Catholics we are not bound by any of those canons. My images draw on symbolism used in traditional iconography because I feel it is important we do not lose that language. Nevertheless this work is simply intended to foster a meditation on Old Testament typology that points to Mary.
God Bless

Daniel Nichols said...

I long did artwork that incorporated iconic themes before I learned the technique of iconography. I made a lot of innocent mistakes, but there is a place for that sort of thing, I guess.
I do take issue with your assertion that Catholics are not bound by iconographic canons; maybe not if they are just making up images, but if they are attempting to write icons it is wise to be respectful of Orthodox tradition. The icon is not just religious imagery, but a sacramental work, a work of the Church, a way of looking at religious imagery that has remained undeveloped in the West. I know when I say such things that Western Catholics object, but I hold that they really haven't studied it deeply: there really is no parallel with the icon in the West. This does not mean that after study and prayer one may not do something that some Orthodox may object to; I paint the Divine Mercy image as an icon, for example (and I know of at least two Orthodox iconographers who do so as well). As in all things there are a lot of opinions claiming to be dogma, but some things are hard and fast, and I would not violate them.
But nice image, for all that.

Rebecca said...

Lawrence did say he was borrowing from traditions in iconography, which is fine, I think. I agree with you completely that true traditional iconography does by definition need to adhere to certain canons. The hardest thing for me when studying iconography was detaching from my own creative instincts and whims in order to subordinate myself (read: ego) to the discipline of writing an icon.

Lawrence, when you say as Catholics we aren't bound by the canons, that is true; there are no icon police as far as I know, and hybrids are valid ways to inspire one spiritually.

But - and this is a big "but" - there are spiritual fruits from an icon made traditionally that one simply can't achieve when the style is mixed freely with Western ideals. Purity, humility and discipline create this incredible effect, which are unique to icons done in a manner proper to the tradition. Not only is the viewer fed, but more importantly, the icon writer. I can't emphasize this last point enough.

Rebecca said...

Lawrence, what medium is this done in?

(I love that you made this a rose bush. How perfect! I neve stopped to consider that it might have blossoms.)

Lawrence Klimecki said...

The media is mixed/digital. Digital paint over a scanned sketch.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have studied in some depth the history, theology, symbols and techniques of icons. I am also currently studying with a traditional iconographer whose work may be sen here:


My comment about Catholics not being bound by icon canons is not based on the fact that there is no "icon police" but rather on the fact that the Catholic Church was not part of the orthodox councils that established those canons.

Again, Russian and Greek canons are different, and sometimes contradict each other, for example in some color directives.

I do respect the various schools and traditions of iconography and I have learned much from the study of their theology. Eventually I hope to get to a point in my studies where I feel I have developed the necessary skill to paint them,(excuse me "write" them.) My instructor is very old school, and the learning process is long and in depth. It is important to remember the common heritage that Catholics and Orthodox share in regards to icons, it has been described as the art of the undivided church.

From "The Spirit of the Liturgy" Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) "The Western Church does not need to subject herself to all the individual norms concerning images that were developed at the councils and synods of the East. Nevertheless, she should regard the fundamental lines of this theology of the image as normative for her. There must, of course, be no rigid norms."

As far "just making up images" I have to take exception to that characterization. This image was developed after much prayer and contemplation and draws on on both eastern and western traditions. Notably in the icon of the "Unburnt Bush"


and in Nicolas Froment's magnificent triptych, the central panel of which may be seen here.


Froment's triptych by the way is an altarpiece and as such was painted expressly for use in the liturgy, one definition of an icon.

Daniel you do fine work and I am not trying to take anything away from that. I am merely trying to point out that there is no universal agreement on what constitutes an icon. Even the way we use the word "icon" to refer to a specific type of imagery is less than a hundred years old, before that all these various works that were meant for use in the liturgy, i.e. inside a church, were referred to simply as images (ikon in Greek.)

To illustrate the point I know of several iconographers that would describe an icon of the Divine Mercy as "made up" and anything but an "icon."

After several years of study and speaking with iconographers of several generations my definition is perhaps somewhat broader than most but even so I would still not characterize this, my most recent work, as an "icon" but rather as a devotional image to contemplate the transcendence of God's plan for our salvation.


Daniel Nichols said...

Well then we have no disagreement, though I disagree respectfully with Cardinal Ratzinger; there absolutely should be some rigid norms (do not paint God the Father, for example).
And that is some fine iconographer you are learning from. Personally, if I had the opportunity to work with someone like that I would lay everything else aside...

Michelle said...

Wonderful piece, I love it! Amazing colors and spirituality to meditate on. Thank you for sharing Lawrence, looking forward to seeing others as they come.