Philip Davydov & Olga Shalamova
August 2022: Two Churches and One Zoom
Hello and greetings from Georgia again!,
We are back at our computers, filming our Course on Egg Tempera and thinking about you, living in a close or remote (from where??) part of this world, you, who subscribed to our Newsletters. So, here are our news, - local and not only:
CHURCH IN TUSHETI
Last Friday David Sulakauri (whom I mentioned in my previous Newsletters) invited me to join him in a visit to a little church, built on a mountain pass. The height of the place is about 3000 metres (10.000 feet) above the sea level, and it is only reachable for a short period of time during the year, since middle of June till the middle of September. This church is built on the only road to Tusheti region, one of most unique among unique regions of Georgia. It's also a great tourist attraction, and we saw lots of 4-wheel drive vehicles driving and stopping by every 5-10 minutes.
The plan is to paint several images on the church walls (inside and outside), so driving on this dangerous road people will feel invited to stop and pray for their safe journey. The road will close up soon, so the actual painting process will be performed next June, so we have all year to get prepared, - to find right models, to make sketches and to render appropriate “cartoons” for more efficient work on the wall.
I will keep you updated when we have some news.
CHURCH IN SAINT PETERSBURG
In addition to single icons and series of icons Olga and I paint in our studio, in 20 years of our autonomous work we had several occasions to work in church interiors. We accept every new project as an invitation for creative research, allowing us to find a decent solution to what used to look kitsch, or boring, or too lavishly decorated. Every project is also a unique communication experience: dealing with priests and parish members always brings a new understanding of how iconography is perceived by people around us. The iconostasis I was hurrying to finish in Saint Petersburg was one of them - it was quite a peculiar adventure.
It was February 2021, when he invited me to be the “chief artist” in his new church. He wanted me to make an iconostasis, mentioning to use no gold, so I was really excited to make his church become a harmonious place for prayer. Everything seemed extremely promising and at the moment I had no idea that all the words were to be taken literally, - who would at that time?
The church had a unique construction, which from outside looked like having solid brick walls and from inside it looked like the interior of a wooden ship. I was eager to find a decent solution for it, but since no church I ever saw had had a similar look, it took me a while to invent and design the right structure. I wanted the iconostasis to solve all the problems of the space, so at the same time it had to look solemn and contemporary, it had to be in harmony with the “constructivist” interior of the church, and at any cost I needed to emphasise the vertical vector of the interior, as originally it it looks low and depressive.
It was a difficult question, what was the best substance to make the iconostasis of, as I knew that either traditional wood or stone constructions would look too autonomous and irrelevant to the rest of the building.
At the end we agreed that I design a structure, which may look like built of brick, and I cover it with tumbled marble and glass pieces. Identifying the main quality we wanted to achieve we came to the word “transparency” as this seems to be the main trend in the Orthodox Church of the last couple of decades. This is the reason why the Royal gates arch and the lateral entrances are so wide, high and large, so that people can more fully engage with what happens in the altar area. The very structure of iconostasis, together with the settings for icons therefore was narrowed to a minimum size, only leaving enough width to host icons and support the arches. To make the iconostasis look even more transparent I made a series of festal icons on glass (to represent the “festal row”) and perforated the construction of iconostasis with 42 holes, covering them with turquoise matted glass.
To stress a feeling of lightweightness and transparency I mounted electric bulbs from inside, doing in a manner that you don’t really notice they exist. I asked my friend Anton to help me with this new invention, so he made a tiny computer, which now regulates the power of light automatically, depending on the amount of light in the church. All these things together help to give an impression of transparency of the construction, and the “highlighted” parts look slightly more active, then the rest of the surface. You really would not think they are lit by electricity!
In total, I worked on this project for about 1.5 years and when I was leaving Saint Petersburg a couple of weeks ago Iconostasis looked almost finished… By the time I was going to go back to Tbilisi I had completed all the mosaic decoration and images on glass. You can see some photographs of this iconostasis on a special page of our website: https://sacredmurals.com/port_art.html
What was missing were the two main icons, as I planned to begin working on them in Tbilisi... And then took a call from the priest and he said: “Thank you Philip, you made a good iconostasis. We will think of icons sometime in the future. They need to be extremely extraordinary, so we will find someone who makes them for us maybe next year”. The next day he paid me the amount we agreed about, and now I feel that I am free for the next project :)
I feel grateful to my destiny, that lately it allowed me to be not only head of St Petersburg Seminary Iconography School, but also to make such a special iconostasis! Now it’s time to move to move forward.
ZOOM AND OTHER VIRTUAL NEWS
First: thanks everybody to joining the previous meetings! It's been cool to talk and to be involved in discussions. That’s the reason why I actually love the idea about the Monthly Zooms. It takes time and energy to find new thrilling topics for every lecture and discussion, but it is so awesome that we can see and hear each other! The next zoom will be about Methodology, about the use of methods in iconography in general: where they help us, and when we should put them aside. So, I guess we will talk about finding a balance between professionalism and intuition, - please, join: - https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83009087267
Lately I've been sharing our News every month to inform everybody about the zooms. Sorry for possible inconvenience and I hope you still don't consider this email a spam. Now it's time to establish a way to calculate the next "Monthly Zoom" day precisely: it's going to be either Saturday the 20th (like this time), or the Saturday next to the 20th of every month. So, we are having zooms on: 24 September, 22 October, 26 of November and currently we plan NO zooms for December.
We will have the same schedule and 2 sessions as we had last time: SATURDAY AUGUST 20:
Please, come, - here is the link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83009087267
Pur previous zooms are collected in a PlayList, and latest are on the top, - here they all are: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL21rrGCUPyUTxw6qbPNq3sJ2dUsu5mgi2
Community Settling Down
Some words about the virtual world. After months of researching and trying different options for the Community of Iconographers I decided to stop. Opening new doors is good, but as we mainly want to share information, let’s just do it in our Facebook group - no more experiments! Everybody welcome to share and read all kind of news at Thoughtful Iconography Studies | Facebook . And if you like to share some special source of images or information, let me know, I will add everything to our “Wiki”, as I plan to open it for everybody as soon as possible.
Thank you again for your continuous support!
With warmest greetings, Philip & Olga
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