COLLECTION BOREAS by Lillian Delevoryas

COLLECTION BOREAS by Lillian Delevoryas

Lillian Delevoryas was born in Chicopee Falls, Massachusetts, USA, the daughter of Greek immigrant parents from the Peloponnese. She studied art at the Pratt Institute and the Cooper Union in New York, where she gained her B.A. (Hons) in Fine Art. After graduation she spent some time in Japan, where she studied calligraphy and wood block printing with Toshi Yoshida and Tomikichirō Tokuriki. She also studied in France, after which she settled in New York for a number of years before moving to England in 1970, where she met the writer/philosopher Robin Amis. They married in 1972 and since then she has made England her home.

Her early work in the 1960s combined several influences, such as Matisse and Picasso, revealing a love of colour and a strong graphic sense which has informed all her subsequent work. In the 1970s her attention turned to working with textiles, when she produced tapestries and fabric appliqué wall hangings, as well as sumptuous garments for actors and pop stars. Her 1972 wedding dress is now in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. During this period she founded the Weatherall Workshops in the Forest of Dean, England, in partnership with Kaffe Fassett. The work produced from Kaffe's and Lillian's designs and stitched into tapestries won many awards and were exhibited widely in such places as the V & A Queen’s Jubilee Exhibition, as well as the Royal College of Art and the ‘Threads of History’ exhibition at the Courtauld Institute, London.

From the mid-90s onwards she was influenced more and more by the icons of Greece and Russia as a result of the frequent visits to Mt. Athos made by her husband. She subsequently devoted herself to learning the techniques of iconography. The first fruits of this study are the icons of the Theotokos, in the Church of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Bristol and the doors depicting the angels Michael and Gabriel in the Church of St. Demetrios and St. Nikitas in Plymouth, as well as an icon of the Three Holy Youths in the chapel of the College of St. Mark and St. John in Plymouth.

In exploring iconography further, she then began to paint icon-inspired imagery set within domestic and natural scenes, such as ‘Dartmouth Bouquet and Icon’ in which an icon of the Theotokos is set on a window ledge overlooking a river, next to a vase of flowers; ‘Small Icon with Snowstorm’ and ‘Annunciation with Still Life’ also follow this theme.

The ‘Annunciation’, ‘Cleave a Piece of Wood’ and ‘Into the Womb of my Nous’ represent a development of combining images of the sacred with images of nature, in which the two seem to interpenetrate each other, an ethereal intermingling of sacred and secular. [see also ‘Loving-Kindness ‘Tenderness' and ‘Loving-Kindness 'Eternal Springtime'] ‘Seed Bed’ and ‘All Holy – Sunflowers’ shows a further development, with the holy figure now boldly and vividly central to the picture, framed by the effusion of flowers.

Works such as ‘Proseuchi’, ‘Standing before God’ and ‘St Seraphim in Snowfall’ represent figures in the act of worship and give a sense of the numinous to which the figures are called. Others, such as ‘Dormition’ and ‘Second Birth’ are drawn from Orthodox themes, representing them boldly and directly and stripped of religious convention, thereby allowing viewers (of any faith or none) to get a sense of the beauty of Orthodox belief.

This work eventually led to the publication of her first book, ‘Visual Contemplations’, the artist’s visual meditation on the text ‘The Life Of Moses’ by St Gregory of Nyssa. The book depicts the journey of the soul ‘from slavery to freedom’, expressing in a simple way the subtle concepts of the early Fathers in a series of original and vivid paintings. Here the style of iconography is used in a way that combines ancient and modern to bring new life to one of mankind’s oldest stories. Some of the pictures collected in this book are ‘Ark of Bulrushes’, ‘Affliction(Thlypsis)’ and ‘The Manna (I)’.

Most recently, at the age of 84, she has completed a series of work based on the theme of ‘the Expulsion from Paradise.’

It is the sense of beauty pervading all these works that draws the viewer in, enabling them to encounter aspects of Orthodox faith that might otherwise be obscured by personal belief or prejudice, and to accept what might otherwise be rejected. Just as icons are ‘windows to the divine’ for the faithful, so are Lillian’s works ‘avenues to the faith’ for the secular and faithful alike. Their power lies in the faith of the artist as she explores the worlds of the sacred and the secular, guided by Dostoevsky’s dictum ‘beauty will save the world’.
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