Merna Liddawi

Location: United Kingdom


Divine Cosmos, 23.5 ct gold leaf, egg tempera, pigments true gesso on birch plywood, 44.3 x 60 x 3 cm

Describe your featured work:

I chose the two royal colours, blue and gold, to be the main expression of Divine Cosmos. Both colours are symbolic especially the gold in the book of Revelation. It is a symbol of eternity and divine light in iconography as seen in halos. I use 23.5-carat gold leaf using an ancient technique called water gilding. This process is the pinnacle of gilding and produces the best results with the greatest longevity. The gold is burnished with an agate stone to makes it reflective like a mirror and random calligraphic marks are left to bring interest and movement into the image. Working with gold requires of me deep concentration and a prayerful heart. It is as if I am touching heaven and communicating with God.

The other colour Blue has been used throughout history to communicate a vision from heaven and especially in iconography. I experimented by creating veils of various colours on a dark background using a technique called scumbling to show the depth, complexity and beauty of God’s creation. I used blues such as azurite and cobalt as well as ochres, hematites and many other pigments layering them in numerous thin glazes to keep the transparency of the colours. Azurite is a mineral made from Azure, a rare and highly valuable stone. It has a unique ability to reflect light and gives luminosity to the painting like no other colour.

Circle of Light, 16.9 Lemon gold, bole, egg tempera, true gesso on birch plywood, 23.8 x 31 x 1.5 cm
Heaven & Earth, 23.5 ct gold leaf, White gold, egg tempera, bole, true gesso on wood, 66 x 56 cm

Artist’s Statement:

I am a British-Jordanian award-winning artist. My grounding in the Orthodox Church and a later career in maths and science are glimpsed through my paintings. The process is meditative and draws on the mystery of creation, sacred and the icon tradition. For me art is a spiritual journey to capture the hidden beauty around us. Using ancient iconography methods imagery is worked in tempera that is laid down on gessoed panels prepared in the studio. Multiple transparent glazes from pigments are painted creating luminous images. The panels are gilded with genuine gold using complex gilding methods. Process is absolutely central to the art: the authenticity of the base elements, the careful preparation of the materials and the layered depths of a gradually evolving work. The physical process of creating art was a form of prayer for the medieval artist as it can be for me too.

Luminous Soul, 23.5 ct gold leaf, egg tempera, true gesso on birch plywood, 34.3 x 34.3 x 3.2 cm

What are you working on now?

I am continuing Divine Cosmos sereis. It was inspired by a dream I had few years ago where I was in the middle of the universe. What excited me most was not just the beauty of the universe that I saw but the sense that every particle of it was made and sewn together with divine love, the love of Christ who holds everything together by His word. Everything was alive. Beauty itself is the result of this deep love and transcendent light. So I chose three symbols blue to reflect the universe’s vastness, gold to reflect divinity and the circle as the eternal, the reality that holds all things together. All these symbols are used in sacred traditional icons. Numerous thing glazes of egg tempera are laid to create the feeling of the universe with its depth and I use water-gilding technique using 23.5 ct gold leaf.

Day Light, 23.5 ct gold leaf, bole, egg tempera, true gesso on birch plywood, 25 x 25 x 1.7 cm

Why do you belong to CIVA?

It’s a great space to be among other serious Christina artist who has the vision to glorify God in the gift He has given them. It gives strength and support to know that I belong to CIVA and there are other artists with faith. I’d love to be able to attend the conference but we still cannot fly from the UK. It’s encouraging to belong to a bigger body of artists and one day I’d love to meet some of you.

Merna Liddawi is a British-Jordanian artist based in the UK. After completing a Physics degree in Cairo, Liddawi taught maths in the UK for many years. Since she gained her MFA (Master’s in Fine Art) with distinction from Sussex University (West Dean College), her work has been exhibited internationally, and across Europe in Rome, Venice, Florence, Portugal and Malta.

She was awarded the prestigious ‘Lorenzo il Magnifico’ painting award at the XI Florence Biennale 17 and won ‘ArtGemini Prize’ in Painting and Sculpture. She has also been nominated for Edward James Foundation trustees award.

Instagram: @mernaliddawiart