Archangel Gabriel by Dr Irina Bradley

News 3 August 2015

Doctoral Candidate Completes Research Degree

Our congratulations to Dr Irina Bradley who successfully completed her doctoral studies at the Prince's School this autumn. Her research into the contemporary practice of icon painting used the icon of St George and the Dragon to approach aspects of painting practice in relation to spiritual practice. Irina writes,

"Working on my doctoral thesis at PSTA was an amazing journey of both academic and self discovery in relation to the practice of traditional Byzantine icon painting. I am very grateful to my supervisors for their support and guidance. A comprehensive approach was chosen for my research, where historical, art historical and philosophical aspects of the image were thoroughly investigated while the practice of icon painting itself directed some of the research questions. The findings from all the mentioned aspects fed back into the practice thus enriching the final practical outcome. A preliminary result of this approach to painting of the icon of St George and the Dragon was the conclusion that the image is unlikely to be a simple illustration of the narrative of the life of Saint George. The research findings suggested the possibility of the conceptual nature of this image and an exegetical approach to early texts in relation to the image found that this collective imagery bears resemblance to that used to articulate the concept of 'inner warfare' as related to the practice of Christian ascetics. The research further revealed a connection between this concept and the practice of an iconographer working in a contemplative manner. It was found that a contemplative approach to the painting process itself, in other words seeing the materials and techniques as constant reminders of non-corporeal realities, helped the painter to direct thoughts and actions towards the inner dimension of the work rather than focusing on technical problems or other distractions. On the one hand the iconographer is searching for ways to express spiritual dimensions using artistic form, but on the other hand, through searching for traces of this inner teaching, is able to understand the images created by iconographers of the past with different eyes. Although the focus of the study was an icon of Saint George and the Dragon, its findings can deepen understanding of Christian iconography in general as well as the practice of icon painting in particular."