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Mount Athos Project

Tim Vyner's first visit to Mount Athos as the beneficiary of the Doug Patterson/RCA bursary was in the spring of 2013. By the time the seasons had completed a full cycle he would have visited all 20 Monasteries on in three separate trips.

The bursary offered Tim a unique window into this remarkable place and the fathers who live their lives far from the public gaze. The architecture and landscape is breath taking. It is a spiritual place. From the moment you step off the boat in Dafni you feel the power of tradition and prayer in this most spiritual of places.

Living inside the monastery walls, Tim observed the strict daily routines of the fathers. And while every father lives a traditional life of prayer and contemplation they also contribute to the community within each monastery. They are cooks, carpenters, scholars, gardeners, builders, artists all living and contributing to the rich and unique community that exists within each monastery. It is this balance between the demands of living your life as a monk in isolation with the vibrant spirit and friendships and community that you see on a daily basis in the monasteries that Tim has tried to capture in his vibrant watercolours.

His multi-faceted artwork is born out of first-hand experiences. Whether using the traditional technique of watercolour painting or ink drawings or the use of the hi-tech materials such as iPads drawings and movies Tim’s work based on location always captures a sense of time and place. So while this collection is respectful of a life that has changed very little over a millennium his eye has picked out particular moments that create a unique record of Mount Athos in the present day. The renovation programme that is transforming the mountain right now has not been ignored. Scaffolding surrounds many buildings and building materials often litter the courtyards and boundary walls. Cars may have replaced donkeys, roads have replaced paths. The lives of many fathers have undoubtedly improved over the last 20 years, but the priceless libraries, artwork and relics from the Eastern Orthodox world is a reminder that alongside the changes on the outside, the tradition of Mount Athos will never change. But there is also an understanding that the unquestioning spiritual life in Athos will never change.

Tim Vyner 2015

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