My name is Katarzyna Wolan and I’m an art historian and an iconographer. I live and work in the Bieszczady Mountains, in south-eastern Poland, and I have always been passionate about the art of icons. Here in the mountains the creation of icons and respect for the tradition is alive and well in our culture, and so it was easy for me to become integrated into that historical process
Iconography is the ancient art of creating and painting sacred pictures and comes from two Greek words- eikon, an image and graphos, a writing. In our artistic language we say we are ‘writing an icon’ rather than ‘painting an icon’.
This is the ancient art of icon writing, almost forgotten today, but all the more precious for that, and I am privileged to be a practising artist in that ancient tradition, stretching back more than fifteen hundred years.
I work in two ways, either copying traditional icons or creating my own interpretation of the ancient canons through my own artistic imagination. I accept private commissions to order, and also exhibit my works in galleries. You can see my works exhibited in my art gallery in Smerek, and if you visit you could see me ‘writing’ my icons.
I paint on specially prepared wooden boards of beech or lime, using egg tempera as a base. Tempera is egg yolk mixed with water, which is spread on the wood to enhance the pigments. The background of the icon, sometimes carved, is covered with a thin, delicate layer of gold, silver, aluminum, copper or thin gilt foil called Schlagmetal or metal leaf. The pigments or colours used are made from ground gemstones and mined clays. The whole artistic process of preparation and painting is very long, and can take up to a month to complete.