"Behind these questions of style lie subtle metaphysical influences in which reside the essential difference between Eastern and Western Christian art in the 14th century. [...] It can be said that Western art strove essentially for realism, while Byzantine art strove essentially for transcendentalism. Western painting attempted to create the illusion of a third dimension while working on a two-dimensional plane. Icon painting, while using the same picture plane of two dimensions, extends not into the third dimension but rather into the fourth dimension or 'space-time', where space is infinity and time is eternity. This is the key to understanding the Byzantine icon in relation to Western painting. We see that the icon painter uses techniques of abstraction and conscious distortion, by which he tries to show us things we usually regard as invisible."
Source: Richard Temple, Icons: Divine Beauty, Saqi Books 2004, p 71