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Icon of Today. Anastasia Bodko

The section “Icon of Today” shows masters of the modern icon, visionaries in this field, considering icon painting as a legitimate genre of contemporary visual art. This time the heroine of the material is Anastasia Bodko.

Tell us about your practice, how did you get started in icon painting ?

In my third year at the Kiev Architectural University, I realized that I wanted to try my hand at icon painting. From childhood I was brought up in the Orthodox faith, at school age I went to art school, I loved to draw. My mother supported me in this decision. During my studies I additionally attended icon painting courses at the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, but it seemed to me that it was not enough, that I could not cope with such a complicated activity, and I thought of going to the Trinity-Sergius Lavra, to Sergiev Posad. There, I am not afraid to say, is the strongest icon painting school in the world. But my skills at that time were not enough, and I did not enroll. Instead, I was offered to try my hand at the Faculty of History and Theory of Church Art. After studying there for three years, I received a master’s degree in theology and learned a lot about icons. But still, in addition to theory, I was also attracted to practice.
While living in Lavra, I met my future husband Andrei Bodko. He, by a happy coincidence, turned out to be an iconographer, taught me the basics of icon painting – under his guidance I created my first works. We spent all our free time in museums, studying icons and getting acquainted with ancient samples in person. My husband significantly changed my, as it seems now, meager idea of the icon, expanded the boundaries of my understanding and showed its true beauty. When I saw his work for the first time, I thought: “Why, is it possible?! Incredible! And I want to do that!”.
So began my fascination with icons, already more substantive and concrete.

How did and is your style developing?

My path in the icon was influenced by modern iconographers. Acquaintances and communication among creative people, a certain environment, “cultural broth” – all this gradually formed my picture of the world. I think that one of the first people who influenced my style was my husband, and then it was the circle of icon-painters acquaintances, or, as we were all called then, the “sect”. I’ll explain here. This is a circle of modern icon painters: Protodeacon Alexei Trunin, Marina Nikolaeva, Andrei Bodko, Maria Nazarova, Igor Kaplun, Ilya Khodyrev, Elia Yarudova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Milena and others. All these people are talented artists, and each of them inspires me in some way. They work in the ancient tradition of icon painting, but they do not draw from ancient samples, but create their own individual things, creative and unique. They use the techniques of provincial masters and convey their personal attitude to the image, character and other things. Thank God that in the XXI century there are such brave people! This approach is very close to me.
When we lived in Sergiev Posad, in Lavra, we often visited museums, and there I also drew inspiration.
Now things have changed a bit. We live in Belarus, in a small town. There are no big museums with icons here. Thank goodness there is the Internet! Otherwise it might sound as if we ourselves are like ancient icon painters and live in a cloister. I follow the work of various people on social networks, plus we try to go out and see icons in person.

What is most important for you to reflect in your art?

For me in an icon it is important to show the image of a saint, to give him guidance and help in prayer. Through my work I would like to convey my veneration and love for the image of the saints I depict. To show and convey the inner similarity with the image that has been formed over the centuries, its character, form, not only technically, but also spiritually, as far as possible. For this purpose I use provincial forms of icon painting: they seem to me more open, sincere, light and pure. There may be no academic drawing, the head, hands and feet may be disproportionate, but they are alive, they cling, they touch. I am inspired by the Russian North, provincial schools in Serbia and Montenegro, I love Ukrainian icons, and lately I have been particularly fond of 18th- and 19th-century writing, as well as stone and wood carving. I often draw color solutions from church-applied sewing.
In an icon we depict the invisible world. Therefore, often some goals and tasks do not go according to our plan, because icon painting is a coworking of God and man. And I am glad that during the work I can stand before God through the saints and pray, even with my own words.

What inspires you and what do you dream about?

I am inspired by creative people who remain committed to their work despite difficult life circumstances. I’m inspired by our Image group. It’s an incredible online magazine about church art. I love working with materials, trying new forms in the icon. I make different sized boards and try to create unconventional compositions. I set myself a number of tasks, which I then solve. Sometimes something comes out well, sometimes I have to work hard.
I have been writing for about seven years. Recently I came out of the second maternity leave to take care of my children, and now I have more time for creative projects. There are a lot of plans and ideas ahead of me that I’d like to realize. One of the most important is to develop my own creative style and approach to the icon.