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These icon-based works were painted over a number of years, beginning around 1995, when Lillian began to explore this genre. Although she didn’t receive formal instruction, she lived near an icon painter in Greece and used to sit by her side and to observe and practise the technique. Over the years she absorbed the lessons and began tentatively exploring iconography when she was back in England.
At first the icons made their way into the pictures as little travelling icons, as part of a larger composition, as one element of a still life, or floral painting. Little by little, as her confidence grew, the icon images began to expand and soon took over a good part of the composition. Another way she began to experiment with was to superimpose the iconic image as a transparent overlay to what was depicted underneath. This gave added depth to the whole image – almost like the overshadowing presence of the Mother of God (her favourite subject) in the world – like a ‘protecting veil.’
From this came a few fully-fledged Mother of God paintings (Seed Bed & Loving-kindness with Lillies), using the Panaghia and Christ as the central motif, surrounded with lillies, Lillian’s favourite flower, which is also the flower most closely associated with the Theotokos.
Other paintings in this collection are two that depicted the roadside shrines in Ouranoupolis, from where her husband Robin used to take the ferry to the Holy Mountain. At first she painted these shrines just as architectural structures, but as her confidence increased, she used them as the container for the ‘Icon of Loving-kindness’ (Gateway to Mt. Athos, 1 & 2).
The ‘Deluge’ came, not as part of the series, but as a one-off. In this she depicts the Deluge as a flood within people’s psyches, inundating them with trivia and distractions. This image was used in her book Visual Contemplations, which was inspired by St Gregory of Nyssa’s work The Life of Moses. The Salome series was done in the early 2000s, when she wanted to show how the power of sex (as in the case of Herod and Salome) could act as a destructive force. In these she juxtaposes the exuberant and sensuous flowers with the macabre event taking place behind the scene.