Fadi, born in 1984, is an Egyptian-English painter and graduate from the world-renowned Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. Fadi was apprenticed to the father of Neo-Coptic Iconography – the late Professor Isaac Fanous.
Fadi explains why the Coptic style of icon painting tends to abstract rather than realistic: “No two people can perfectly agree on the exact personality or much less the exact physical attributes of Christ. Therefore in their abstract style, icons seek to provide the church with the simplest common denominators of the person Jesus.
“That He was a Jewish man, we know. That He had a beard and long hair because of His Jewish tradition, we know. Greater than this, we do not know.
“Therefore to reduce, or ‘abstract’ the human face into the geometrical forms that we use in icons, seeks to be ‘true but not exact’ to the great variety of imagined forms that Jesus’ face can take in each of our imaginations. And because all things begin and stem from the Creator, all icons are painted in this manner and style.
“In the case of Coptic Icons, we also refer heavily to the artistic style of our Ancient Egyptian ancestors, in order to keep alive the remembrance of our heritage.. Both styles are also devoid of perspective and try always to push all figures in the image against the picture plane, in a 2-dimensional way.”
The paint used for icons is known as ‘egg tempera’ – the base is egg yolk mixed and thinned with water and vinegar, for preservation. Icons are painted or ‘written’ (as they are considered to be ‘a visual gospel’) on wooden boards that are covered with a thin material canvas. Onto this is painted a chalk (or ‘gesso’) surface. This chalk gesso imitates the limestone (chalk) walls on which Ancient Egyptians painted – a surface ideal for preserving this kind of paint.
The painting itself is made by the darkest colours being laid first, and successive layers becoming lighter and brighter each time. This process gives an extremely rich gradation of colours and a beautiful shine to the faces in the icon.
It takes around 20 hours to complete an icon as small as an A4 sheet of paper.
Lord, Pour out your Spirit on artists, craftsmen and musicians: may their work bring variety, joy and inspiration to our lives.