I was born in 1965 in Ukraine, and brought up in a non-religious family. I entered college to study mechanical engineering, and eventually earned a Master’s degree in the field. But I had begun to paint during my freshman year, and for many years thereafter created “secular” canvases. During all this time, one question remained foremost in my mind: What is ultimate beauty? In the search for an answer, I turned to iconographic images.
From my experience in painting, I found that contemporary art has no interest in anything beyond itself. Today’s artists see their vocation only as self-expression. The most important feature of art today is “uniqueness,” a vain pursuit that compels the artist to invent a new style or come up with a new concept instead of learning from nature. In most cases, what makes new styles “unique” is that it opposes the style that preceded it. This makes the progress of art a matter of constant warfare. What’s more, in the contemporary world, artwork has become mere merchandise, rendering the artist not a creator, but a salesperson and PR specialist.
By way of contrast, Orthodox iconography is grounded not in the individual artist’s ego, but in Tradition, and represents an image of God and His saints. Inside Orthodox churches, you can find icons from different regions and different times, and made in different styles — but all are equally venerated. They are venerated not because of the name of the artist, but because of the Subject he depicts. From artistic point of view, I saw enormous beauty shining forth from those old and damaged boards – colors that would make Matisse jealous, and lines laying out the path to artistic freedom and true wisdom. The well-written icon appears more profound and more worthy than most contemporary art objects. In the end, I turned from the empty pursuit of modern artists, who think the way to freedom and spiritual truth is through breaking the rules, and instead yoked myself to the liberating strictures of Holy Tradition — and in so doing, found true freedom, and true spirituality.
I brought my first “trials” to an Orthodox Church in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, where I then lived. At the time, I had not been baptized, and did not even believe in God.
The priest who critiqued my attempts was surprised that I had not been baptized, and suggested that it be done immediately.
I did not want to make such a decision so hastily. After long and rather painful process of reconsidering my life and goals, I was baptized into the Orthodox Church by the same priest who judged my first attempts at iconography.
It was 1991, and the Church had only begun to recover after years of Communist oppression. Only several years before my baptism, one could be sent to jail for practicing what the state termed “illegal occupations” — including iconography. Unsurprisingly, then, there were no iconographers around to teach me the authentic way to make icons.
A friend and I began to gather information bit by bit: from studying rare books, asking advice from restorers in museums and research institutes, making our own paints and boiling varnishes, and the like. In search of a formal teacher, I traveled to Moscow, to St. Philaret Orthodox Christian Institute, and later to the Holy Trinity Monastery in Zagorsk.
Finally, I found a famous iconographer, Archimandrite Zinon, in small skete near Pskov, thousands kilometers from my home. It was he who introduced me to the ancient method of iconography, based on a famous medieval essay by a priest Theophilus, titled “On Diverse Arts.” By his own example, Archimandrite Zinon showed me what it means to be a true iconographer.
After many years of professional work for the Church in both Ukraine and Russia, I was invited in the year 2000 to the United States to decorate the newly-built St. Seraphim Cathedral in Dallas, Texas. Since then, I illustrated over 11,000 square feet of the cathedral interior, including the two rows of the wood-carved iconostasis, with iconic images of saints and scenes from the life of Christ.
Recently, I completed two more iconostases in America — one at St. Paul church in Denison, Texas, and one at Holy Apostles church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have also completed nearly 100 icons for various churches and private customers in my studio in Dallas. In 2006, I was ordained a subdeacon by His Eminence +Dmitri, who was at the time Archbishop of Dallas and the South (OCA). I live in Dallas with my wife and children.
I accept commissions for the creation of iconostases, complete systems of church decoration of any scale, interior and exterior murals, road signs for churches, icons for personal devotion, and so forth.
I also lecture about Iconography and the Orthodox Christian faith in churches and on college campuses.
Western audiences, both Christian and non-Christian, often find through exposure to Orthodox icons and practice that iconography is not a naïve or folk art which is required in church by old customs, but a revelation of eternal Truth and enormous and profound Beauty.
The art of iconography once again delivers a genuine truth about God to western civilization, affected by secularism and relativism.