Alexandra Trampa: Writing the Lives of Saints
Alexandra Trampa was born in Arta, a city in the northwest of Greece. At the age of 12, her family relocated to Athens, a bustling and exciting city for a child who always possessed an artistic flair. While her initial studies were in fashion designing, in time, her gift, agiography (iconography), emerged as a result of an intense inner quest…
Did you begin with the intention of being an artist or an iconographer? What were you drawn to first?
My quest was both artistic and personal, but then again these two things are also rather interdependent. It took several transitional phases until I found a way to express my personal perspective and use visual art as a transactional instrument with life itself. This applies in parallel to all aspects of my work as an artist, including my work in hagiography.
What is it like to be both an artist and an iconographer? It is said that an artist paints or draws and an iconographer “writes” icons. Is the focus or preparation different for these two roles?
Both are an art form. If the motivation behind the creation of a painting can be a moment in time, a mood, or even a situation, this can also hold true for a hagiographer. If one is not simply reproducing an archetype, but finds inspiration and applies one’s own expression or sense of aesthetics, the final work can be artistic whilst retaining a religious substance.
You have some beautiful icons on “untraditional” canvases. How did you start this, does the canvas inspire the icon that will be written on it?
I prefer working on canvas because it offers greater potential for expression. I diverge from the strict rules of hagiography when working on such a material that is inherently lighter. This is precisely what I intend to convey through to the final work: it is lighter. It is this impression that may attract the modern believer, or the less believer, seeking something affordable, familiar while retaining its inherent divinity.
Of course, there are other suitable materials for hagiography that impart the necessary organicity, borne with nature’s sense of security. Raw materials such as stone, old wood and non puttied surfaces are ideal for this purpose. I believe hagiography can be executed on any surface without losing the Christian character. It does not preclude me from following the ideal. Hagiography can thus be expanded, adopting modern aesthetics to extend hagiography to settings beyond the established.
From where do you find your greatest inspiration?
Inspiration comes from my life’s milestones. Milestones that I am called to manage or overcome and the emotions spawned forthwith. Hagiography has roughly the same mechanisms. It is very important for me to emphasize the human substance, bearing all the frustrations and joys. It is this which leads us to the divine. You can not see the divine except through people.
Do you have a favorite memory from either your art or icon experiences?
As would be with any professional hagiographer, the first time my tutor awarded me a hagiography and I had to climb the scaffolding inside a church to begin painting on the wall. The excitement, the awe and reverence I experienced will accompany me forever. Similarly, I will never forget the overwhelming emotions from my first painting – before I even began studying hagiography – dedicated to a dear loved one.
Who have been your greatest influences or mentors along your path?
There is a great number of hagiographers who have accomplished great things over the centuries, as well as in recent years. Nevertheless, I have always admired and been inspired by Manuel Panselinos and the brothers Michail Astrapas and Eftychios Astrapas. Three important representatives of the Macedonian* School, whereby through the use of broader lighting, motion and realism in their work, they illustrate how one may connect with the divine by contesting any attempt to worldly restrictions.
*editor’s note: pertaining to the northern region of Greece, not the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia
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