Art Critics

by Irina Yazykova

Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova are one of the most remarkable icon painters in St. Petersburg. Their panel and mural painting is professional and artistic; they have developed their original style, while upholding strict canon rules and deep tradition. In the modern Orthodox art these qualities often do not blend.

One can say that Philip and Olga typify a new generation in icon-painting in the sense that they relate to a new stage of its development. Generally, those who came to the icon-painting workshop in the 1980s - early 1990s remain under great pressure of tradition, which does not allow them to create freely. Indeed, they witnessed violation of sacred places and obliteration of the Orthodox tradition as church culture was neglected for decades. While restoring it, they venerated both sacred images and specific samples, trying to reproduce them as closely as possible to the original. Meanwhile, modern copies attain neither the depth of spirituality, nor the artistic quality of the ancient monuments. The period of replicas has been exhausted; nevertheless some iconographers persist in cloning old masterpieces.

New generation icon painters proved to be more creative and free. Even though young artists were mastering traditional icon-painting technology, following the canons, and referring to the ancient samples, they nevertheless have quickly realized that copying, once useful at the time of studies, prevented them from creating a genuine sacred image. Based on a centuries-old tradition, it must express today's faith and acquire a language of its own.

Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova have found their unique style, which fuses tradition and novelty, although it is clear that creative search process is incomplete and their style will continue to evolve. Philip was schooled at Andrei Davydovs workshop; his father, a priest and a well-known icon painter with twenty-five years of experience, has a distinct character and a special manner. At first, Phillip had been developing his skills within the bounds of this style, but gradually he took his own way, and every year his work becomes more and more independent. Olga has less experience than Philip; though her background seems to be not so strong, she managed to gain confidence and professionalism in several years. Today their creative teamwork produces excellent results.

A number of recently painted icons, including Nativity of Christ, icons Our Lady of Filermo, Crucifixion, and others, prove that Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova are masters with great creative potential.

Irina Yazykova,
Ph.D. in Cultural Studies, art critic,
Chair of Christian Art Department of
St. Andrew's Biblical Theological Institute