A Glimpse towards the Inside (interview) | 147 Înluminaţi / The Enlightened cycle. Image from the exhibition Minunata fire a lucrurilor de a fi / The Things’ Wonderful Nature of Being (2013), and a detail of Iov / Job. The painter Constantin Cioc at the opening of the exhibition. Vase alese / The Chosen Vessels cycle in the same exhibition. glass; they figured scenes for decorating edifices of worship, according to a certain iconographic program or according to certain requests connected to particular saints. Icons are made on demand, but in order to paint them, time has to be allowed. There are artists who usually paint icons, who turn painting icons into a job and, according to this, they create a way of being for themselves, because one cannot paint... or at least I believe that one cannot paint an icon anyhow. One may receive a demand, but the icon’s execution largely depends on one’s own relation to it. As good and as expressive the icon will be, inasmuch as the painter experiences his own dimension of a Christian life, because the icon is living. It needs to be assimilated in your being, for it to be represented in a spiritual manner. cb: Can you teach people how to look at icons? Is there a reading key for the icon, as there is for art in general? cc: I usually try to read the icon. I give the same advice to all Christians and, generally, to all people, for the icon is read, it is a writing, not only in forms and colours, for it is also, ultimately, a theological writing. And herein lies the beautiful part, since the icon possesses a meaning and the meaning – in many cases – must be discovered. The icon is much more than what we see represented on its wood. The Holy Fathers gave us words. Capital words! The painters of the time gave us images! Monumental ones! The Holy Fathers gave us in writing, black on white, letters and consciences, divine images through word. The painters, however, gave us, in divine colours and forms, words painted through images. Inspired theologians were, undoubtedly, both. To the first, we owe the dogmas of the Church and the mystic of the becoming of the being. To the latter, we owe the Church’s iconography and the confessing power of the image. cb: What happens to the icon whose contours can no longer be distinguished? May it still be considered an icon? cc: As long as we know for certain that the one represented is a saint, even in the absence of his face, I still consider we are dealing with an icon. Because it is all about reference. To a Christian, generally speaking, the icon is no longer just an object. To those who regard the icon as an aesthetic object it would indeed be difficult; to a Christian, however, for as long as he, despite the absence of the face, continues to look towards the face, the icon continues to function entirely as an icon. It’s a sort of view beyond what is visible. cb: Is there a difference – to the beholders - between an icon placed inside a church and an icon placed in a museum? cc: To the beholder, generally speaking, there might be a difference. It is appropriate to also mention the alienation of man from the icon. Because of this alienation, we perceive the icon merely as an aesthetic object, worthy of being placed in a museum and considered object of patrimony. To a Christian, however, the icon continues, despite its museification, to be an icon, with all that it implies... The face of Christ is no less true inside a museum than it is inside a church. It is inasmuch the Image of Christ in His Entire Truth. cb: Is it more difficult for contemporary artists living in a desacralised universe to paint icons? Compared to, let’s say, medieval painters, who lived within an entirely religious context? Is there some sort of weight of the world, weighing on the iconographer’s shoulders, determining him to be distraught by the different kinds of messages that deter him from interiorization, averting him from his encounter with the icon? cc: Personally, in order to paint an icon, I need to retreat from the world. And I say this once again, I have to live in a
148 | Cristina Bogdan in dialogue with painter Constantin Cioc certain manner. I try to defend myself from the violence of the outside world which, with its noise, attempts to cover my inner silence – the one that actually helps me paint the icon. To do this, I need a retreat. I need to retreat within myself, I need to retreat inside a workshop, I need silence and, naturally, I need prayer to be able to paint the icon quietly, peacefully, while having the belief that what I do is right and is of use to many. cb: You earlier said that the icon labours you. Do you find yourself different after painting an icon? cc: When I paint an icon, I always break myself down, meaning I realize how incapable I truly am. Despite all my knowledge in painting, I feel small and powerless in completing this labour by myself. I also feel, perhaps in a more acute way than with my paintings, the need for help; so, I ask for it. cb: Is there also a joy in this weakness? Is it a weakness that obliterates you or, on the contrary, one that elevates you? cc: It is a weakness that fulfils me, because I gladly discover myself weak. cb: If you were to think of an appropriate word to describe the idea of icon, which would it be? cc: The word I consider best to embrace the icon is immortality, because, ultimately, it is about being. cb: Does this mean that an icon is never finished? Does it not have an end, a closure? cc: It does not have a closure, it does not have a time and, naturally, it does not have an end. cb: Yet still, icons are dated. We may say that they at least have a beginning when they were sent to the world by their creators. Is there a temporality of the icon? And a certain time the icon imposes on the iconographer? For instance, if you were demanded to paint an icon within a month, could you comply with the demand? cc: I would definitely try to do so. (smiles) There are always two ways in which I speak of the icon. These are, the Icon with a capital i and the icon with a lower-case i. The latter can be done by any of the painters who deem it worthy to dedicate themselves to this labour. When speaking of the icon with a lower-case i, naturally, I need a certain physical time and, with enough endeavour, I could complete it within a given time span, answering to someone’s demand. But then again, it also depends on my existential involvement in the genesis of the icon. I like using this word, because,ultimately, making the icon is a creation in itself, just like the genesis of the world. When creating an icon, you re-generate a world... a spiritual world.