Caroline Furlong

St John the Divine

Artist Statement: St. John the Theologian is known in the west as St. John the Divine, or St. John the Evangelist. He was the author of the Gospel of St. John and the Book of the Revelation of St. John.

This icon was written for the Church of St. John the Divine in Houston Texas. It depicts St. John holding the book with the first verses of his Gospel "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God..." inscribed in Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written. The figure on his shoulder is an Angel whispering to John the mystery of the nature of God revealed in the verses. In response to the revelation, John seals his lips in holy silence and wonder.

The icon is Russian in style, and the painted border is reminiscent of Celtic manuscripts. The stylized figures in each corner of the painted border represent the symbols of the four Evangelists: the Ox, the Eagle, the Lion and the Man.

bio: Iconographer Caroline Furlong has ventured in her art career from realistic to abstract styles, finally evolving into a liturgical artist and painter of icons. “I found that, for me, art doesn’t have to be a reproduction of something that can be photographed, but is more of a quest for the truth behind the object. I began looking for ways to express mystery -- not the ‘Agatha Christie’ kind, but the ineffable kind. I tried to find a visual language that would allow me to communicate that mystery," says Furlong. She turned to well known symbols that are widely understood in the Christian Church in an attempt to avoid creating completely subjective art. “Just as we use words that are well understood to tell a story, there is value in using and reinterpreting ancient pictorial symbols to communicate universal truth. Rather than limiting the artist, it fosters a living tradition that unfolds for each new generation, bridging past and future,” she says.
Her icons are written using egg tempera, a traditional medium of iconographers for more than a thousand years. It involves making the paint by grinding natural pigments to a fine powder and mixing them with egg yolk, to make an extremely durable paint film. Furlong enjoys the craft and the chemistry of this ancient medium.

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