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The University of King’s College Chapel welcomed iconographer Symeon van Donkelaar Monday for a weeklong workshop (15-19 February). This week van Donkelaar will instruct twelve students in the religious art form, of which many celebrated examples come from Orthodox Christianity.
The Kitchener-Waterloo iconographer’s work is especially noteworthy because he uses natural pigments that he gathers from sites around Canada. Working from his studio Local Colour Saints, van Donkelaar makes “colour pilgrimages” to establish his palette. For his workshop at King’s van Donkelaar visited Londonderry, Nova Scotia, where he collected graphite for a grey-blue. A deep black, which van Donkelaar describe as “a precolour (like prehistory) – the colour that existed before we understood colour,” comes from burnt deer antlers.
Trained by Orthodox monks over a six-year period, van Donkelaar sees iconography as a form of contemplation, or “theology in colour”. Fundamentally, icons contemplate nature; however, van Donkelaar’s use of locally-sourced pigments deepens each work’s contemplative aspect. The “local colour” practice embodies not just the natural world but also the human world of place, community, and history.
King’s Chaplain Father Gary Thorne said Monday that van Donkelaar’s art exemplifies the kind of attention that can, and ought to, be paid to nature. “In Symeon’s icons we meet nature speaking for itself, regardless of which of our interests it might serve. Here, nature’s variation and idiosyncrasy are far from a nuisance or an obstacle to our control. Instead, they show us nature at its purest and most personal. When we contemplate nature honestly and allow it to enter into dialogue with us, we cannot misunderstand our humble place within it.”
The workshop will be 7-9 PM on Wednesday, 17 February, and Thursday, 18 February in the Chapel. Mr. van Donkelaar will be present in the Chapel during these times to greet visitors; all are welcome.
For more information contact:
Matthew Furlong: (902) 292-2644