How should a woman icon painter be depicted? The Transylvanian tradition of painting Orthodox and Greek-Catholic icons on glass saw a remarkable number of women painters working alongside men during a period in Europe when most professions were highly gendered and most artistic professions were reserved for men. In order to get closer to the subjectivity of a woman artist in such circumstances, Mona Vă t ămanu and Florin Tudor looked across the iconographic canon to portray an artist who mediates the presence of divinity by creating an image. The image of the artist materialises on canvas, but how and by what means does this occur? In On Dreams, the icon painter Maria Prodan is asleep, her fgure becoming visible in a state of indeterminacy – perhaps due to a dream, contemplation, a mystical ecstasy, or maybe wariness, fatigue?e?
What does Maria dream of? In On Dreams, the three white shapes – abstract fragments of the surface of the canvas primer – refer to the unrepresentable, the materialisation of a presence beyond the image. This reference to the canon of religious representation, of something transcending the real, follows another more direct reference. The three forms are meant to represent the spiritual debt, the in fnite debt owed to the divinity, and also the concrete, worldly debt that Mary had to return to the church. The debt-chain metaphor, the repayment for our presence on earth, the in fnite debt that binds the invisible fabric of the world we live in, is depicted by the presence of the garland of fowers and coins, the moon, and the sun, which are all symbolic elements borrowed from Maria’s iconography. The image of life controlled by debt is mirrored and contradicted by associations proposed by the pictorial layers: the feminine, life, aquatic re fections, and the germination of a new world.