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Joni Zavitsanos


My work is largely shaped by Byzantine Iconography, the earliest form of Christian art. Under its influence, color schemes, figures, architectural edifices, historical events, and visual perspective all play an important role in each collaged piece I create. At the same time, the influence of my father, renown Byzantine iconographer Diamantis Cassis, is also visible in all the work I’ve created throughout my life.

Drawing from these two streams of artistic and spiritual exposure, I strive to convey to the viewer a sense of the ancient past made present in today’s world. In this way, the iconographic images crafted centuries ago mesh with contemporary events and people, giving Byzantine art a feeling of relevance and continuity in our current lives. On a personal level, the work allows me a connection with my father and my Faith, bridging my life on earth with what mysteriously lies on the other side.

Byzantine icons originated in the 1st century as both a visual textbook for teaching Christianity to members of the early Church and as a “spiritual gateway,” a medium for the faithful to establish communication with the sacred.  Religious icons require a fixed, disciplined technique, intended to eliminate personal artistic style, which is considered a distraction from their intended spiritual purpose.  Byzantine icons still play a vital role in the theology of the Eastern Orthodox Church, with many contemporary iconographers still practicing the same techniques used centuries ago.  Can contemporary artists move away from the constraints of iconography to create a more relevant, yet still spiritually meaningful, style?  I hope to explore the questions, can the sacred be translated into the secular, and how would that look.

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