Regan O’Callaghan wrote this Icon (it is said that you ‘write’ an Icon – you don’t ‘paint’ it) he is a close friend of mine, an artist and a priest in the church of England. The subject is Lucy Winkett, the Rector of St James’ Piccadilly. The Icon was a gift to Lucy from a school where she served as Governor.
The Icon is in line with many Icons that Regan has written. He believes in representing the ‘sainthood’ of all believers by painting living Christians with the same care and honor that you would reserve for painting a saint. There are many such wonderful images of ordinary holiness on his web site.
In this image many of his common themes are present. The ‘sainthood’ of all believers is captured by the choice of subject herself: Lucy. Her robes contain a Koru – the coil which is representative of the fern from Regan’s native New Zealand, and a sign of the renewal of creation and creativity itself. She is dressed as a priest, and is blessing the watcher, and her face is open and beaming with the smile of a community leader, but then there is the imposing bird on her other arm which strikes a different note.
It is an Eagle, Lucy’s favorite bird, and it is majestic in its posture. In Christian mythology the Eagle is also the symbol of John’s Gospel, because it was said that John’s Gospel gives you an Eagle eyed view of the life of Jesus, and because the Eagle has such good eyesight and John’s Gospel helps us to see Jesus more clearly. The Eagle is perched on her left arm, and if you look closely enough its talons are drawing blood. This introduces some more complex themes into the piece. Initially it suggested to me that the preaching of the Gospel can draw blood: at least if done right! In speaking to Regan he told me that the blood represents the wounds of life, and I reflected back that life itself, if well lived, can be both costly, and also a sermon.
I love this painting, it is painted of a colleague by a good friend, and it also speaks volumes about the nature of the vocation to priesthood, and also to just being a Christian.
Does living the gospel sometimes cause you pain? Does living with integrity and truth feel like a challenge? Where are your sources of creativity and renewal? Are you smiling to the crowd, but also feeling pain that cannot be seen very clearly? Is there hope in your gestures?
Take a moment to contemplate this contemporary Icon. What would Regan paint in your Icon?
From the UK, Matthew loved US culture from the first time he picked up a Fantastic Four Comic when he was 12.