Dear Friends, we apologize!!!
President of our country started a horrible war against our neighbor country. We probably could have stopped him, but we did not. We are deeply sorry for what he and other people do in our name. We tried to protest, but when we saw that no reasonable argument could ever influence that man we quitted.
Some people say that different people and situations we encounter in our lives may not necessarily be important. Well, what we all are facing in these last weeks pushes us to reconsider a lot of our habits. The question is - why were we meant to? I think now we all are forced to check our values and intentions, desires and strength of connections. In our case we simply had to move away from home as in Russia now it is impossible to work peacefully in connection with the rest of the world. We decided to temporarily relocate from our home country. I share a longer story below , - have a look if you are interested, but here I wanted to share some personal discoveries I believe may be interesting from a professional point of view.
My first discovery in this period was to see what my life really consists of and how little can be enough. Getting ready to relocate we had an entire day to gather our belongings, so we had to decide what to take with us and what to leave (considering the space of a regular car). Of course we did not think in terms of “leaving forever”. Our plan still is to just be “somewhere else” till the end of the “Special Operation” and to wait till the re-opening of our country to the world. We hope this may happen in several weeks or months, and yet, the moment we were getting ready to leave and had to make crucial choices was the moment of truth. You understand that you can only take what you need, and at the end of the day there are so few things you can’t live and work well without!
Same thing about settling down in a new place. Moving into an empty apartment you face the same type of questions: - which of the kitchen appliances you truly need? How much cutlery and other stuff do you need for living? Will a set of 4 forks / spoons be enough for 2 people?
Another question, maybe we should apply the same principle to our iconography? - Why not let our image “say” only what must be said, constraining them to the most essential expressiveness only? Maybe it’s my usual tendency, but the very feeling of being “wordy” in art for me means making it diluted, less powerful. Maybe it’s just the situation, I don’t know.
And through all these little difficulties of ours we keep comparing ourselves with those, who are in much worse circumstances. With those who have lost their dearest relatives, families and homes entirely and now they start from scratch with no money in some alien country.
For us as for everybody in the world today this whole time is a threatening and an insightful experience. Of course we are in much better circumstances, and we are so grateful to people, who supported us and continue to support us in these difficult times!
To cheer everybody up we would like to share our positive experiences of Georgia as an ancient Orthodox country. We started dreaming about seeing hundreds and hundreds of medieval artefacts, still awaiting for us in different places.
First things first: we will share our delight for traditional local trends in liturgical arts. In these three weeks after our arrival we have visited several churches in Tbilisi and its outskirts, including the most central ones. We are so relieved to see NO love for gold, overburdening 99.99% of Orthodox churches of Moscow Patriarchate in Russia and abroad! We also love the variety of styles we encountered in Georgian churches. Some belong to more classical, rather byzantine direction, while other ones were painted with orientation on local icons and frescoes. Last Friday we were introduced to a local artist and iconographer David Sulakauri. He said that here in Georgia (like in Russia) there are not many clergy members who care about art, but one bishop and some priests do.
It was sad to discover the National Gallery of Arts closed for “reconstruction” some years ago, but the very city of Tbilisi appeared to be a piece of living art. The Old city and some other districts with ancient streets and cityscapes are so picturesque! They remind us Rome, New York, Moscow and Melbourne (in Sunny days)! From what we saw by now Tbilisi feels like a stunning place to stay if you want to have an opportunity to be replenished and enriched visually with your routine environment. This image was taken in the David Gareja monastery complex we visited last Saturday, and we hope to see more places like that in the nearest months.
We will continue sharing our experiences and photos (you can read our relocation story below), but before doing this I want to say words of gratitude to our Course 4 and Course 3 students for their patience. Our extended trip and time/energy consuming efforts to settle up in a foreign country took much longer than we hoped and we thank everybody for understanding our situation. We have almost finished settling and feel ready to move forward!
Recently we have had some more inquiries about learning iconography online. We thank everybody who expressed their interest, and here is our plan for 2022.
Students, coming to the Course 1 can see all the next courses on the calendar. Here is the schedule:
Course I: Drawing Symmetrical Faces: April 28 - June 9
Course II: Drawing Asymmetrical Faces June 16 - August 25
Course III: Space in Iconography September 8 - October 20
Course IV: Half-Figure of Christ Pantocrator May 8 - October 13
If you are among those, who have recently finished Courses 1, 2 and 3, or you simply feel secure drawing traditional icon faces, we invite you to join our Course IV starting on May the 5th. So far it’s the most complex and the longest among our courses, providing learners with the largest variety of skills and concepts. If you would like to know more, please refer to our website Iconography.Online.
Now we work hard on the new place and plan to make 2 more new online courses. They will cover two topics we always planned, but never had time for. I will be making a theoretical course, dedicated to Theology, history and theory of iconography. It will be a good chance to summarize my knowledge and complete it from other sources. It's been a while since I was seriously reading scholar's researches on iconography. It's time to review what is new and make it accessible for practicing iconographers. Olga is planning a course, teaching to professionally paint with Egg Tempera. From what I see, she builds it up in her usual manner, step by step adding blocks of information to summarize everything at the end. I believe it is going to be cool. We began practical planning some weeks ago, but we don’t know yet when we announce the dates.
Hopefully we will be able to schedule them for the second half of this year, possibly in July or August.
Apart from working on courses we also have a strong hope that we will paint some commissioned icons (those, who are waiting for commissioned icons to be painted, - thank you so much for your patience!!!). Climate in Georgia is much warmer than in Saint Petersburg, - we see much more sun every day, - it already fills us up with much more energy. We all hope very much that the war will soon be over and life will start getting back to normal. After all devastating actions the world will slowly get back to constructive activities.
Sale of Textile Icons to Help Ukrainians
Now some words on another matter. These words are mostly written for those, who ever looked at our icons on fabric thinking about a possible purchase. Here in Georgia we are free choosing what to do and what not, we feel eager to help Ukrainians. Now we think about selling some of textile icons and passing all the money to help Ukrainian refugees here in situ. The money will be given to the Helping to Leave Fund
We made a special page with available images. Please, let us know which one you like to buy, so we mark it as Reserved and make sure no one else will take it. We will be carefully pack ship the purchased items within 3 days from the moment of purchase.
Tours from fr. Ilya Gotlinsky
Life needs to go on... At least it should! For those, who have been willing to escape COVID and start travelling again we wanted to share an opportunity. Our friend Fr Ilya Gotlinsky continues his his work making tours to special places. We know he is very good in doing what he is doing, so if you were dreaming to visit some place and have enough means for this, - he is the guy you may trust. His nearest program will cover Macedonia, and he is still having some empty spots: http://orthodoxtours.com/north-macedonia-2022/. Olga has been on this trip in September and it was really good. Have a look, - maybe you take it, maybe you think about it in the future.
I can't stop saying how grateful we are for your support! It was a long trip in many senses, and here below I mention only the most essential parts, but you know that don’t have to read about them: just scroll to see the photos :)
We chose Tbilisi because always dreamed to visit Georgia because of it’s stunning medieval churches, frescoes, carvings and icons. Besides: Russians can enter Georgia by car (or on a bicycle) without obtaining a visa. At that time we thought it was just a question of distance… And even if we were not quiet right, we still are happy to be in Tbilisi!
The Road: It took us 3 days to drive 2500 km (about 1600 miles) to reach the border between Russia and Georgia. We arrived at the customs sometime at 7PM on Thursday the 10th of March and discovered that this only mountain road connecting two countries was closed 4 hours prior to our arrival. It happened because snowstorms on the peaks created a risk of an avalanche and even the tracks, which normally clear the road could be pulled into an abyss and crashed. We stopped in a little cosy guest house in Ingushetia and stayed there for 6 nights, whilst snowstorms were coming and going over the Caucasus mountains. We also had a chance to drive and walk around and see some beautiful medieval Ingushetian fortresses and towers. We even hoped to see a XII century church with carved reliefs, but discovered that for a secure driving in mountains in winter our 4 studded tires were not enough. The vehicle had to be a 4-wheel drive one, and ours wasn’t, so we stopped on top of a mountain and slowly drove back to the guest house.
Staying in Ingushetia we had a chance to visit Vladikavkaz and occasionally discovered a fellow iconographer Samson Marzoev living there. He and his family were very kind to us, inviting to dinner and to showing us a church, he worked on. This church was built right by the Beslan school, where terrorists took 1100 pupils and adults as hostages in 2004. This horrifying place brought us back in time to the days, when all our country was feeling the same fear of terrorists attacks. We went back to where we stayed and tried to work, but the feeling our country history as a series of continuous nightmares didn’t let us focus.
After weather forecast showed a hope of possible sky clearing we rushed out to the border and got into a line of cars, which by that moment was only 1 mile long. It started moving in about 30 hours, and in another 10 hours we passed the customs! Hourraaah! After the last 160km/100 miles we arrived to Tbilisi, and today, in less then a week of researches we miraculously rented an apartment, where now we can stay and work for as long as we need. Almost every day of our trip we had a little (or big) portion of snow, but today it’s the first day of weather change, - clear sky and first warmth of the spring.
The last photo was taken in Mtsheta, - a beautiful monastery in outskirts of Tbilisi, and we know, there is so much more to come... We thank everybody so much for the prayers and support!
May the PEACE come ASAP!!
Philip and Olga
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