Divine Art: Iconography, Ekphrasis and Archaeology

The London Arts-Based Research Centre


Divine Art: Iconography, Ekphrasis and Archaeology

Birkbeck, University of London

May 20-21, 2023

Registration open

Call for Papers

How can religious artefacts shape our understanding of the divine? What type of ekphrastic responses may be generated between different mediums of religious art? What factors come into play in the making and development of iconography and other art of religious significance? How can archaeological findings tell us more about the history of the sacred in our psyche?

Ever since the dawn of time, people have created and developed ritualistic relationships with artefacts in order to help them understand, express, and communicate with the divine. From jewellery to iconography, music, garments, sculptures, architecture, incense, and more, these objects of art have encapsulated and preserved religious symbols and traditions over many generations.

This conference aims to bring together researchers, postgraduate students, creatives, and scholars interested in the role that religious artefacts can play in our perception of the sacred. In this interdisciplinary forum, we will be sharing ideas relating to all aspects of art and the divine, especially regarding matter, materials, and materiality in religious cultures throughout the ages. Art is associated with religious traditions around the world, and objects (such as icons, sculptures, jewellery, garments, architecture, etc.) have the capacity to depict and describe archetypal, spiritual concepts and religious content through matter. We would like to explore topics revolving around the connection between religions and material culture, especially in observing the relationships between people and sacred artefacts, whether these relationships are of spiritual, informative, creative, scientific or ekphrastic nature.

Ekphrasis, or the translation of art between mediums, is also an area we would like to unpack and further examine in the context of art with religious significance[1]. The ekphrastic poet, for example, may have an emotional engagement with, or a direct address to, or symbolically interpret, personify, or add dimensions to a work of art through writing poetry.

Central topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Iconography: process, meaning, making, and using
  • Calligraphy
  • Cross-cultural interactions and influences
  • Archaeological discoveries through these artefacts
  • Modes of interaction between different cultures/faiths in the creation and use of artefacts with religious significance
  • Special processes and techniques in iconography
  • Renovation of artefacts
  • Classicism and neo-classicist approaches to religion through art
  • The Renaissance
  • Religious symbols in art of ancient civilizations
  • The contemporary use of ancient religious symbols in art, fashion, and rituals
  • Comparative religion
  • Interdisciplinary conversations
  • Consciousness and the imaginal realm
  • Archetypal expressions
  • Spiritual symbolism
  • Mythology as methodology
  • Alchemical symbolism

Held at the University of London, Birkbeck (as well as online), this two-day hybrid conference will take place on 20–21 May 2023.

Presenters may either share academic papers and/or creative work (poetry, prose, photography, music, painting, etc.), as we highly encourage arts-based research, as well as research which stimulates reflection on creativity, image, symbol and archetype. Please send abstracts of 250-words and brief biographies to info@labrc.co.uk by April 30, 2023.

Registration fees:

  • In-person participation: £150 for two days (including refreshments). Please let us know of any access needs or dietary restrictions.
  • Virtual participation: £90 for the two conference days

Conference organiser:

Dr. Roula-Maria Dib (LABRC, Indelible)

We look forward to receiving your abstracts—and to seeing you in London soon!

[1] The Greek word “Ekphrasis” literally means “Description”, and it is often described as a form of art about art, like a poem about a painting or an icon inspired by a chant.

Registration open

4 responses to “Divine Art: Iconography, Ekphrasis and Archaeology”

  1. Dear Dr. Roula-Maria,

    I was wondering about the time table for this conference at Birbeck… Will you have a program / syllabus? Can one stay at the University rooms, or can you suggest nearby hotels?



    • Dear Nicholas, thank you so much for your interest. We are currently still receiving proposals until April 30. The programme will be out shortly after the team chooses the speakers (by early May). As for the hotels, we recommend any of the ones nearby on Gower Street, all within close proximity to the university 🙂

Leave a Reply