Twenty-nineteen marks some significant milestones for artist and iconographer Michael Galovic – 30 years in Australia, 50 years as an iconographer and in November he will celebrate his 70th birthday.
The milestones have rendered him renowned for creating works of sacred art that
are artistically and spiritually challenging.
The Record Editor Jamie O’Brien met with Mr Galovic at his home on the central coast of New South Wales to talk about Galovic’s life and work as an iconographer and his impact on more than 100 churches and institutions across Australia.
Mr Galovic is one of the few original ‘writers’ of icons in Australia.
After arriving in Australia from the former Yugoslavia in 1989, Mr Galovic had only planned to stay for six months but knew then he wanted to live here.
As the child of an art historian and fresco art restorer, Mr Galovic absorbed the wonders of medieval art from an early age.
“I showed interest back then and I didn’t think about that until I enrolled in the Academy of Art in Serbia at the age of 18,” Mr Galovic told The Record.
“In my second year of the Academy, I started writing icons because I wanted to understand the mystery behind the story.
“I simply wanted to see is it possible to scratch the surface or go deeper. I could see the technicalities of the process and believed I could try.”
At the completion of his graduation, Mr Galovic, pushed his work in art aside – but continued working on icons – going on to travel the world and undertaking a variety of jobs. At the end of that journey was his arrival in Australia.
However, after a year of not finding employment, he decided to go back to being an artist.
At that point, he had not been practising for some 15 years – the odds were against him.
Mr Galovic recalls that it was at this point, he had an awakening, an epiphany – emotionally and religiously. “This changed me and my work for the better,” Mr Galovic says.
“I accepted the presence of the faith in a way that I hadn’t before. I could not sleep because I was so full of energy and ideas.”
” I accepted the presence of the faith in a way that I hadn’t before. I could not sleep because I was getting so many ideas. “
Up until that point, Mr Galovic had not been practising his faith, and says his icons were based on art, but devoid of theological background.
“I realised you could not divorce the two, and it forced me to step into another realm. My icons became better and it was noted by my peers that I had progressed in my skills.
Mr Galovic says he is humbled by the fact that it was God that was leading him in those days
“It took me 50 years to realise that.”
Mr Galovic recalls the first icon he completed was of the Archangel Michael. He still keeps it in his studio.
“There were no specific schools (to teach iconography) in those days; I had to do the research, and practise on my own, while consulting with other more experienced iconographers. I was stimulated by the challenge.
“I believe very few people in the world have stayed on this path.
“When I first came to Australia, people did not know anything about iconography. I have slowly done my best to teach and explain what it is about.”
Mr Galovic explained that with iconography, the trained eye has to recognise the symbols; to decode the cryptic language of the icon.
“Clarification is not about the time period it was painted, or which country or the person who painted it.
“For example, Christ the Pantocrator he has two garments; the garment next to his body should be red or brown, symbolic of his divine nature, and the outer is green or blue for his human nature. The colour symbolism is just one of the facets of what makes icons what they are.”
“When Mary is depicted in traditional icons she has two garments. The one closest to her body should be blue or green, for her human nature. And the cloak is red, brown or burgundy for her being the Mother of God. However the writer can also use blue.” Mr Galovic continued by explaining that with an icon, the writer should not need to provide an explanation.
“A ‘wholesome’ icon should be used within the liturgy. It speaks about the life of Christ. Of scripture with a deeper meaning.
Mr Galovic added that even as he draws closer to 70, he is still full of energy.
“I am now, more than ever, focussed on the sheer quality of my work. I keep trying to surpass myself with almost every new icon I am creating, pushing my own boundaries.”
For more information go to www.michaelgalovic.com
From pages 22 to 23 of Issue 19: ‘Why Believe In God’ of The Record Magazine