help encourage that feeling, Russian artist Philip Davydov has
turned a white ceiling above the church's altar into a
colorful religious vision, creating a fresco expected to last
for ages and that Hayden hopes will transport worshipers to a
|Russian artist Philip Davydov painting
a fresco above the altar at St. John the Evangelist
Episcopal Church in New Brunswick on Friday.
On the Web
|Davydov taking a break from painting a
fresco above the altar at St. John the Evangelist
|Davydov, right, working on a fresco of
Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St. John the Evangelist
Episcopal Church's patron. Davydov's father painted the
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Russia.|
"It adds the ability to enter into a world that perhaps
isn't the kind of world that we live in," said Hayden, pastor
of the church. "Icons and frescoes are windows by which the
world beyond our world enters into this world and doorways by
which we can enter that world."
Working tirelessly for three weeks, Davydov, 28, has
created a vision of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and St. John
the Evangelist -- the church's patron -- in vivid reds and
blues in a style consistent with the Christian traditions of
medieval Western Europe.
He has worked tirelessly. After one recent presentation,
Davydov returned to the church at 10 p.m. and worked until 2
in the morning, Hayden said. He has often shown up at the
church at 6:30 in the morning to get to work.
"I'm not a hero," Davydov said. "I do my work and try to do
the best I can."
But Davydov must work quickly because his ancient technique
uses plaster that can only be painted while wet, giving him a
two-day window for each section. After that the plaster
adheres to the paint, making it last for centuries. Frescoes
dating from the 6th and 7th centuries that used this technique
are still vibrant, Davydov said. But because of the plaster's
durability, errors cannot be fixed.
"You can't make mistakes on the wall," Davydov said.
The son of a noted Russian painter, Davydov, of St.
Petersburg, Russia, has painted frescoes and religious icons
for 12 years, but this is his first project in another
From making his own plaster mix to designing the work to
fit with the building, Davydov has had his mind and hands on
the project at all times since arriving in New Brunswick.
The process, however, began even earlier when Hayden sent
Davydov photos of the church, giving the painter a chance to
think about what would fit best. In his mind the location, art
and architecture of a church must all fit together.
"It's evident that the architect of this church tried to
make it a very harmonious building. It's very important to
follow the forms," Davydov said.
Hayden found Davydov on the Internet about a year ago as he
searched for icon painters. The two became friendly via e-mail
and the church eventually commissioned Davydov to create the
He will return to Russia at the end of this week, but his
work will be dedicated in a May 8 ceremony including Bishop
George Councell of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey.
Hayden said the artwork will serve as a connection not only
to the spiritual world, but also to other parts of the
"(It will) remind our congregation that whether we speak
English or Russian that we all are of the same faith in Jesus
Christ," Hayden said.
Jonathan Tamari: (732) 565-7347; firstname.lastname@example.org
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