Page last updated at 07:05 GMT, Friday, 21 January 2011
Acclaimed painter creates new icon for Usk church
Icon of Christ
The icon has been created from natural materials using an ancient traditional process

A renowned religious icon painter has created a painting of Jesus Christ for a church in Monmouthshire.

Ian Knowles worked in the Priory Church of St Mary in Usk last week painting the icon. The church also hosted an exhibition on iconography.

An anonymous benefactor paid for the work, which has caused a "great sense of excitement" to the congregation, according to the church's vicar.

Jordan-based Mr Knowles also teaches iconography in Bethlehem.

His time at the church, which dates from Norman times, was the first occasion he had worked in Wales.

Icons are part of liturgical or religious art and have been used as part of Christian worship for centuries.

Mr Knowles explains that creating an icon is a spiritual experience and one that uses traditional processes and materials.

The process of painting an icon is very much a spiritual one and Mr Knowles prayed before and during the creation of the icon.

Ian Knowles painting an icon of Christ
Ian Knowles has painted the icon of Christ in the church

"When you paint an icon you're trying to be in the presence of Christ and in communion with the saints," he said. "You're painting from the heart."

The use of colour in icon painting is very significant. Gold which is used heavily in icon art symbolises the divine milieu. The icon of Jesus created for the church features Christ wearing a blue cloak symbolising his holiness and a reddish purple (caput mortum) inner garment which symbolises Jesus' humanity.

'Living prayer'

Mr Knowles only uses natural ground pigments to create a harmonious palate. The colours are mixed together using an egg yolk tempera or binding agent. Rabbit skin glue is also used. The ancient, traditional process extends to the panel which is created from lime wood and comprises of a raised border battened at the back to prevent warping.

The panel created for the Priory Church of St Mary's measures 45 cm wide by 60 cms high and will be placed on a stand and brought out for services.

Ian Knowles presents the icon to the vicar of St Mary's Ian Gray
The church is planning a formal service to bless the icon later this year

The vicar of St Mary's Priory, the Rev Ian Gray said there's been a great sense of excitement in the congregation and in the community about the creation of the icon.

"It was great to have Ian in the church painting the icon. People could come into the church and see Ian and see the icon being painted and learn more about the process."

"It's been an educational process for the whole congregation. There's a real sense that this icon belongs to the church."

"It's a living prayer in paint and wood. It represents God and is much more than just a piece of art."

Mr Gray explained that the church are looking into ways of putting the icon on permanent and secure display in St Mary's.

There are also plans for the icon to be formally blessed by the Bishop of Monmouth later this year.

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