I. December 2013 - January 2014 Exhibition "Gifts", (the Gifts of the Magi):
II. Actual Exhibition "Contemporary Iconographers of Russia":
in Moscow, at the exhibition hall of Kazansky Train Station, closes the 19th of January 2016.
Plus to these exhibition, we start sharing photographs from our trip to Cappadocia, and this time we publish the frescoes of Agacalti (Daniel Pantonassa) church:
As promised long ago, we start publishing Interview with our friend Todor Mitrovic.
It was taken by Olga and is scheduled for printing in Russian in almanac Gifts-II, but I decided to give our subscribers an exclusive possibility to read at least a part of this text.
It was very carefully revised and proofreaded by Jennifer Leslie www.esl-academic-editor.com
Here it is, - enjoy!
Olga: Is there such a phenomenon as the contemporary icon? If so, what are the elements informing it?
This is a serious question and one to which I cannot give a positive answer. We cannot accurately perceive a future point of view or analyze our epoch from a distance, but we have archaeological experience helping us understand what we are doing now.
The problem is every icon painted today is contemporary and problems arise when somebody thinks they are painting in the Medieval manner, and there aren’t differences between icons painted today, and those painted in the Middle Ages (Byzantium or Russia, for example).
Painting an icon Medieval way today includes contemporary skills, devices and processes, completely unknown to Medieval man. Starting from the beginning, icons are (1) discovered, classified and categorized by art historians; then icons must be (2) cleaned, conserved and restored by restorers in order to be seen in their full beauty after which they must be (3) photographed and (4) published, in order to be available to the public. The public includes contemporary iconographers some of whom live in urban centers where those icons are (5) exhibited in a museum, enabling close observation, under good light conditions. If you want to make a real Medieval icon, most of those five, and possibly a few more procedures have to be fulfilled and I ask – can anyone find anything Medieval in any of those procedural steps?
Producing a Medieval icon today is a high-tech and contemporary procedure, not only technologically, but also at a conceptual level. Let me give you an example. When Father Zenon decided to change his style, skipping centuries and painting icons in the 12th century manner, it was artistic behavior unimaginable in the Middle Ages. For such a process you need the help of all five high-tech procedural steps mentioned previously, carefully orchestrated by an artist highly trained in art history and mimetic drawing/painting skills. Needed also is a public audience trained in the hyper-dynamic experiences of 20th century artistic exchange able to respond positively to dynamic aesthetic developments. These possibilities were not available to artists of the Middle Ages.
So, from the beginning, we should be aware of our contemporaneity, and try not to live in the Middle Ages, because from an artistic and theological point of view this is irresponsible. The Middle Ages said much about art and spiritual life but artifacts and information from the time won’t speak to us if we do not enter into the dialogue from our own position. As with any dialogue, if you pretend you are somebody else – and especially if you believe you know everything the other side has to say – then forget about a dialogue.
As with all great art, Medieval icons are full of sophisticated messages and we can speak with them every day – and – exactly because of this – it is almost an insult to treat such depth as a surface to be copied. Old icons are copied because we recognize their depth, but if there is the possibility to learn the language they speak – instead of transcribing visual text we do not understand – it is irresponsible not to explore such a possibility.
Learning this language should be our starting point: only when we use this language in creative ways – and it’s similar to the way poet uses it while writing hymnography – can our icons become actual theology in color. So finally, my answer to the initial question is: we cannot escape being contemporary in icon painting, but it is up to us to decide how to use our contemporary position. Are we going to use it as an artistic/technological process to hide our spiritual confusion, or are we going to use it as a way of an active Christian being-in-the-world?
To be continued..
Last, but not least!
We have recently acquired an icon from Todor Mitrovic and we hope it to come to our home right after Christmas, we feel so honored! And by the way, - he has some more ... :)
Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova