Beauty is back

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A delighted Fr Paul Smithers receives the completed icon of Our Lady Help of Christians from iconographer Michael Galovic. Photo: Alphonsus Fok
A delighted Fr Paul Smithers receives the completed icon of Our Lady Help of Christians from iconographer Michael Galovic. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

One of Australia’s leading iconographers, Michael Galovic, has presented the final piece in his trilogy of sacred art to St Joseph’s at Rosebery, bringing a sense of beauty and tradition to the newly renovated church.

The striking new icon of Mary Help of Christians will be placed either side of the tabernacle joining Michael’s other icon of St Joseph, as well as his painting, The Crucifixion Subsumed, which will be placed in front of the baptismal font.

The stunning pieces of liturgical art were commissioned by parish priest Fr Paul Smithers who said he was connecting with the Go Make Disciples Mission Plan, in making the church a place of great beauty and creating a sense of welcome and accessibility.

He said people respond to beautiful things and hopes the contemporary icons will help attract people to the parish and the newly-restored church.

“Since becoming a priest one of my main goals has been to restore a sense of beauty to the church …”

“When we started this process of renewal at City South Parish I thought there’s no point in building a nice new school and early childcare centre and the church staying the same, so I decided to put money into it as well so it looks inviting, welcoming and beautiful,” he said.

“The building itself is about evangelisation. The church has see-through glass so people can see into it at all times. It will also have a 24-hour chapel so people can pray anytime which is connecting us back to Go Make Disciples, engaging people through beauty, incredible architecture and also accessibility.

“Since becoming a priest one of my main goals has been to restore a sense of beauty to the church, because we’ve gone through this puritanical stage where we stripped everything beautiful out of our church so I’ve tried to recapture something that’s beautiful.

“Rosebery was never a dedicated church, it was a multi-purpose Church-cum-school type of building so through these icons and renovations it’s now been dedicated completely and totally for the practice of worship.

Artist Michael Galovic (at left) and Fr Paul Smithers who commissioned ‘The Crucifixion Subsumed’ for St Joseph’s Church, Rosebery. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Artist Michael Galovic (at left) and Fr Paul Smithers who commissioned ‘The Crucifixion Subsumed’ for St Joseph’s Church, Rosebery. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“Michael is a distinguished artist in the life of the Church today and we are thrilled with him and his works which are truly beautiful.

“Quite simply, art and beauty are a means of evangelisation as a lot of people will come to the church because they appreciate good art, so we are simply throwing out seeds and hopefully they’ll land in rich soil and grow.”

A four-times finalist in the Blake Prize for religious art, Michael has produced more than 100 commissions for religious institutions around Australia and is thrilled with the reaction to his latest work.

Over the years he has created several icons and paintings of Mary Help of Christians, but believes this one is the most mature and striking due to the difficult techniques he has used.

“In this icon I painted robes for both Mary and Child on the previously gilded surface which is a very rarely used technique as it is particularly difficult and challenging …”

Using colour symbolism traditionally used in icons, Mary’s inner robe is blue, standing for her human nature and the outer, red mantle tells us about her being the Mother of God, whereas the colour symbolism with the infant Jesus is reversed, the inner robe alludes to His Divine nature, while the blue/grey one on top, to His human nature.

“I am very eager and keen on breaking new ground, finding new ways to present religious art and I am always elated when my work turns extraordinary. The comments have been amazing by all who have laid eyes on it,” he said.

“In this icon I painted robes for both Mary and Child on the previously gilded surface which is a very rarely used technique as it is particularly difficult and challenging, however the glow and impact of gold is unsurpassed with this method and is used only by experienced iconographers

“And I am very much looking forward to witnessing the presence of the two icons and the artwork The Crucifixion Subsumed once they are consecrated, and hope the congregation will welcome those works in their midst.”

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