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Works Adorn the FMS Chapel at Mittagong



Michael Galovic, Icon Writer

03/12/2008: Australia

While attending the Marist Festival at Saint Joseph’s College Sydney, an English-speaking environment indeed, I heard just behind me, someone speaking excellent Spanish with a foreign accent. I turned around to see before me - this was at World Youth Day 2008 - an individual with bright and lively eyes who was speaking warmly and animatedly to a group of young people about the icon which was before them. At once, I felt the need to make contact with this gentleman and have a word with him.

You are speaking Spanish very well. Congratulations!
That’s an achievement I owe to my wife who is from Chile, although I did study in Spain from l978 to l980. The years in Spain were the occasion of learning the beautiful Spanish language.

What country are you from?
From the ex-Yugoslavia. At least that was the name by which the country was known nineteen years ago when I came to Australia.

How did you come to be a writer of icons?
I have been working with icons for forty years. I began by absorbing the ancient traditions of iconography. This occurred in my earliest years because in Serbia I used to observe my stepfather restoring frescoes and icons in churches and monasteries. I began to write my first icons when I was an adolescent. Later on I pursued other kinds of work, but never was I able to leave off dealing with icons. For icons I feel an attraction that arises from within.

Now you are working solely with icons?
Here in Australia over the past nineteen years I have dedicated myself fully to the task of writing icons. All the works that I produce are, almost without exception, for the Catholic Church. My works are commissioned mostly in Australia, although some of my icons are found in New Zealand, England, Scotland, the United States, Korea.

I have heard that you were responsible for writing an icon for presentation to Pope Benedict XVI at World Youth Day.
Yes, that’s right. An icon of Saint Benedict. The Pope’s name, “Benedetto” in Italian, corresponds to the English “Benedict.”

How did it feel to be given such a commission involving, as it does, the Pope?
A good question, really. It took me two weeks to calm down, because I just could not believe it. I was having problems sleeping. Finally I was able to get a hold of myself, concentrate and get down to work in a focused way as I had to do, since the amount of time available for the task was very short: no time to lose. What I did was to work up two or three small sketches, two or three small icons in order to get an idea of what the final product would be. I had to be sure of what I was aiming at with minimum room for error.

What are some of the features of the icon which you have prepared for Pope Benedict XVI?
Since I was asked to write a new icon, a new interpretation of Saint Benedict, I imagined him to be a simple monk in the act of presenting to God the Benedictine Rule. The icon portrays an elderly man of wisdom. In this act of offering, in an attitude of great humility and tender petitioning, Benedict asks that what he offers be accepted. The saint is portrayed as a man of mature age, in his sixties or seventies.

Michael Galovic is also the creator of the icons found in the Marist Brothers’ chapel in Mitta-gong, New South Wales.
Speaking of the five icons found in the Mittagong chapel and others belonging to the Marist Brothers of Australia, the following questions were posed to the artist.

How did you find inspiration for portraying Marist Brothers’ spirituality by means of the icons representing certain Marists known for their holiness?
Upon receiving the commission, I had to focus my thoughts upon the Marist world and learn about it. They had asked me to write the first icon of Marcellin Champagnat as Blessed, prior to his being canonized. Then at the time of the canonization, they asked me for an icon of Marcellin as saint. That is how I began my first days of work with the Marist Brothers. Since then I have continued my journey as a traveling companion on the voyage, creating different works which they have requested.

In writing the icons, what aspect of Marist spirituality has had the strongest impact upon you; what most caught the attention of Galovic in preparing the icons?
No question about it: it was the Marists’ love of the Virgin Mary, for her compassion, for her humanness and her nearness, making it possible to speak to her and to be close to the human family.

Among the works which you have created for the Marist Brothers, which is the one you created with the most affection, of which you are most fond?
Mary at Pentecost, in the midst of the Church gathered in prayer. This icon was commissioned by the 53-member Confederation of Marist Schools in Australia. The icon “travels,” being moved from site to site according to the schedule and venue of Conference meetings.

In what ways to you feel that your life has been enhanced by contact with Marists? What have the Marist contacts brought to Galovic?
The chance of deepening my spirituality, because learning of Marist things brought a new dimen-sion to my life. I come from the Orthodox tradition. The possibility of letting people know what I do.

MICHAEL GALOVIC was born in Belgrade, capital of the former Yugoslavia. He graduated from the Belgrade Academy of Art in l974. He started to learn the ancient iconographic tradition at first hand during his childhood years when he would see his stepfather restoring Serbian frescos and icons in churches and monasteries. In his adolescent years he began to write icons on his own account. In the course of making his own life’s journey, Michael traveled widely and spent various periods of time living in the Middle East, Spain and Africa, absorbing the contrasting beauty found in each new culture which he was discovering. In l990, Australia became his new place of residence, and since then he has become a naturalized citizen of the country. In Australia and elsewhere many churches and private collections are in possession of Michael’s creative efforts. A person could come upon his art in over seventy churches in Australia, New Zealand and other countries as well; pieces are also to be found in numerous private collections. In addition, our artist has held exhibitions in the United Status (2), England (2), Peru, Serbia, Korea, New Zealand (many times). He envisions an exhibition to be held 2009 in Iceland and another – certainly the most important - in Rome in 2010.

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