The course covers the essentials of egg tempera painting, especially as it is used within the tradition of Orthodox sacred icons. Students are free to choose their own subject– figurative, geometric or otherwise – but the emphasis is on how tempera can be used to indicate spiritual values.
This course forms the ‘backbone’ of the VITA MA Programme. These classes introduce the students to both the practice and the meaning of traditional geometry. Geometry was one of the ‘Seven Liberal Arts’ studied in Plato’s Academy and as such was considered to be vitally important in the education of a student. VITA argues that it is geometry that provides the link between all the sacred and traditional arts, and this is the reason that it is given so much emphasis.
THE GEOMETRY OF STRUCTURE AND SPACE
Space is one of the five conditions of existence: existence means the ‘Created’ material world. The remaining four are interdependent as time, form, number and substance. As ‘conditions’ they have all been considered ‘pre-existent’ to manifestation and become the laws by which the manifest state is held in being. Space, although interdependent with the others, can be and is studied as a subject in its own right. The art of space is fundamental to all the arts. By definition, space is both the theatre of events and a participator in the determining of events through the word ‘direction’. This course takes the students through the fundamentals of dimension from point to line, line to plane, plane to solid (all as structure). Comparisons are made between the most ancient findings and philosophical definitions to the most modern discoveries of atomic physics. The course is based on Professors Critchlow’s text book ‘Order in Space’, first published by Thames and Hudson in 1967.
TRADITIONAL METHODS AND MATERIALS
The course introduces students to the techniques of some of the great master painters of the 14th to 17th centuries. From grinding and preparing pigments to the formulation of a range of traditional recipes central to egg tempera and oil painting, the tutor demonstrates how important and integral this careful preparation was to all the great masters. The purpose of these classes is to give students a thorough grounding in traditional painting techniques, the essential principles underlying them, and some of the alchemical symbolism involved in the preparations.
INDIAN MINIATURE PAINTING
The technique is illustrated step-by-step so that each aspect of the craft, from the initial preparation of colours to the final detailed painting, is revealed. The experience enables students to understand both the practical and philosophical wisdom that lies within this ancient tradition.
PERSIAN MINIATURE PAINTING
Focusing mainly on the Persian tradition, the course considers the principal themes illustrated, colour symbolism, patronage and design – lay-out and composition with reference to spatial relationship. The practical aspect enables the students to use the traditional methods and materials in order to execute a miniature painting themselves by the end of the course. This starts with treating the paper, preparing the pigments, learning brush technique and ultimately completing a painting.
This course aims to impart an understanding of the ways in which geometry can be translated into physical form through the use of template and tessellation; this is followed by demonstrating how the results can be scaled to fit specific dimensions. The students are also shown the possibilities within primary grid structures and how they can be used to express more complex geometric patterns. The project will entail model-making (in wood and plaster) of final designs and making moulds of them in plaster; these are used to make glazed clay tiles that can be assembled into various compositions.
These classes are fundamentally exercises in colour and ornament, mainly in the Islamic tradition,students are shown a wealth of visual material, in museums and books. They draw and paint straight from chosen objects in the museums under constant supervision from the tutor who shows them how the biomorphic forms (islimi or arabesque) are all based on geometric principles. Thus, through careful observation, the students learn from the masters of the past the profound value of free-hand drawing and, together with instruction on technique with as much practising as time allows, they are each able to produce a finished piece of beautiful islimi work.
These classes will enable the VITA students to experiment with all aspects of design and manufacture – including the production of ‘the cut line’ of a chosen image, selecting the colours, cutting the glass and then leading and soldering the glass together. The students will be asked to work as a team, producing one or two panels depicting either geometric, classical or biomorphic designs.
ARCHITECTURAL DRAWING/SANCTUARY PROJECT
This is an introduction to traditional Islamic architecture, both practice and theory. The students, many of whom have no experience in architectural drawing, are given a project to design a zawwiyya (a sanctuary/ small place of prayer). The students are also given a lecture with slides of the traditional architecture of the Islamic world, showing the many different styles that occur, but also how they are all linked by a unifying force – a ‘Sense of Unity’ – as some writers have called it. This inspiring project leads each student to undertake their own individual research and then start constructing their drawings, again under the close supervision of the tutor and other members of staff. They are also introduced to the symbolism of basic architectural forms that occur throughout the Islamic world. The project gives the students the opportunity to understand the principle of how the arts and crafts are an integral part of traditional Islamic architecture.
During the course students will be introduced to the art of ‘real mosaic’ with a slide lecture drawing on Byzantine sources from Ravenna. From day one the course will be practical and all students will progress to a finished piece in glass or marble by the end of the week. All necessary tools and materials are provided in order to experience both the ‘direct’ and’‘indirect’ methods; these duplicate precisely those techniques used by the Romans who were the first to understand that it is in the placing of the stones in an organic yet harmonious fashion that the art of mosaic is found.