courtesy of OMHKSEA, The Censer, March 2005
My First Icon Exhibition
By Mr. Eric Lowe

Above: Mr. Eric Lowe mingles
with guests at the second
exhibition of icons in Hong
Kong, entitled “Written
Theology.” The exhibition
was held during Hong Kong’s
annual arts festival and Art
Walk - an annual charity
event that was hosted by
Hong Kong’s finest galleries
and restaurants.

Note: Mr. Eric Lowe is a parishioner at the Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Luke in Hong Kong. An avid admirer of all things Byzantine, Mr. Lowe agreed to share his thoughts on the opening night of "Written Theology" - the second icon exhibition held at the Hong Kong Fringe Club from February 18 - March 4.

I have known about the existence of icons since studying the history of the Byzantine Empire during my western civilization class in college. However, it was much later that my studies of Greek and Russian Royal Families led me to the Eastern Orthodox Church and icons. Most of the members of both the Greek and Russian Royal families collected them and venerated them in their homes and churches. I had never seen an icon myself (except those in church), so the announcement that there would be an icon exhibition filled me with joy and expectation. (Actually, this is the second icon exhibition in Hong Kong, but I missed the first one, regretfully.)

The icons being shown this time were all newly painted (not transfer printed, so naturally they were a bit pricey). They came from diverse areas like Greece and Romania to India and Indonesia. It was definitely a treat to anyone who is attracted to either the religious or the artistic aspect of the icons. The use of icons was not uncontroversial in the early days of the Eastern Church, but was vindicated as a means of veneration and as tools assisting the teaching aspect of the Church. Unlike the Catholic Church that used secular artists (Michelangelo, Raphael and Da Vinci) to prepare the paintings and statues for its church decoration, Orthodox icons were traditionally written by monks in the monasteries, who view iconography as a prayer and an act of devotion. Because the style has remained constant, its representation is filled with meaning. I was fortunate to have a chance to learn about icons before the exhibition. For example, if a saint is holding a cross, it means that he/she was martyred.

I went to the opening night, and it was filled with people that are very interested in icons and what they represented. Interestingly, not only Orthodox Christians turned up, but also Catholics and various representatives of the Protestant Churches in Hong Kong. In the days that followed many people continued to attend and asked interesting questions. Some were even surprised that to learn that there is an Orthodox Church in Hong Kong!

However the icons remained the main focus. The organizers were very fortunate to find a selection of diverse styles of icons for this exhibition. Not only were the visitors surprised by the detailed woodcarvings and glass painting techniques of the icons from Romania, but they were also greatly impressed by the superior workmanship of those from Greece. Yet, it was the icon depicting Christ with the mother and child in the midst of the tsunami that impressed most people.

Here, amongst the other icons that have been painted and copied for hundreds of years, is one icon that is completely relevant to today’s world and its suffering. I was quite moved when I first saw the icon. I believe it signifies that Christ is with us every step of the way even in danger and unhappiness. In following him, we shall be saved.

Most of the icons in the exhibition were for sale. (There were quite a few remarkable ones, such as the Romanian glass icon and the icon of the prodigal son from Indonesia, that sold quickly.) I believe that the icons will be cherished by their new owners. The remaining icons will go to exhibitions in Singapore and Beijing.

It has been a wonderful experience and the start of a journey during which I hope to see more. Many people I have talked to hope that the icon exhibition will become an annual event so that more people in Hong Kong could enjoy them and gradually discover the message within them.


Above: The display window of the Economist
Gallery at the Club in Hong Kong where
“Written Theology” was held.

Above: Archimandrite Daniel Toyne of Singapore
and Missionary Arestodemus Arestou listen as
Metropolitan NIKITAS speaks about opening
night proceedings at the second exhibition of icons
at the Fringe Club in Hong Kong.

Above: Metropolitan NIKITAS hands out traditional
Lai See packets to Hong Kong Christian leaders in
attendance at the opening night for “Written Theology”
in Hong Kong on 18 February 2005.

Mr. Paul Chan stands with a guest
on opening night of “Written Theology”
on 18 February 2005. Mr. Chan, a
doctoral student and history
teacher, spent numerous hours
helping with the exhibition and
was able to make presentations to
visitors on behalf of the
Metropolitanate in English and

OMHKSEA volunteer William Leakakos
discusses the finer points of
Byzantine Iconography with St. Luke’s
parishioner Alexandra Papadopoulou.
Mr. Leakakos, who used to work
fulltime for the OMHKSEA, has
returned to Asia to help with the
exhibition and volunteer at select
philanthropic sites.

Metropolitan Nikitas welcomes everyone
to “Written Theology” on opening night,
18 March 2005. Hundreds of people stopped by
to take part in opening night festivities at
the Fringe Club in Hong Kong.