St. Seraphim Cathedral Murals focus on Moscow Art Conference
Saturday, February 27 2010
On January 28, as part of the XVIII Annual International Educational Conference named “Christmas Readings” held in Moscow, Russia, over 50 iconographers from Russia and Eastern Europe, art critics and iconography teachers gathered to discuss the role of Church Art. The five-hour session was led by Alexander Kopirovskiy, PhD, M. Div, Professor of St Philaret Orthodox Christian Institute, Moscow and Irina Jazikova , PhD, Professor of Christian Art in St. Andrew Institute, Moscow.
One of the most interesting presentations was, amongst others, a talk by Prof. Alexander Kopirovskiy, “Iconostasis and Murals by Vladimir Grygorenko in St. Seraphim Cathedral, Dallas, TX”
Immediately after its beginning, the talk went far beyond the borders of an “academic report” and focused instead on the through discussion of icons of the Cathedral and the problems concerning the development of contemporary Church Art in general. The meeting noted the high skill shown by Vladimir Grygorenko, who successfully managed to adopt a traditional system of church decoration into a complex and unusual architectural interior of the Dallas Cathedral.
Several compositions written by Mr. Grygorenko for St Seraphim Cathedral were discussed for their uniqueness including the location of the composition “The Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles” above the Altar, which makes that image a central theme in the whole system of the Cathedral’s iconographic presentation, the icon of “The Bosom of Abraham” which includes portraits of Holy Missioners, and icon of “Conversation of St. Seraphim with Motovilov.”
The discussion of the murals in St Seraphim Cathedral (which took twice as long the conference schedule provided) concluded that a significant result in church decoration was accomplished in following an approach that did not impose deadlines that could compromise the overall project and, most importantly utilized an active and open collaboration with the iconographer the parish and the bishop.
As the meeting continued, renowned iconographer Alexander Chashkin opined that many priests and even bishops in Russian Orthodox Church still consider ancient iconography as “appalling” or “horrifying” while preferring naturalistic looking imagery.
Artist and Theology teacher Lilia Ratner spoke of the spiritual and aesthetic vision of beauty of the prominent twentieth-century Orthodox theologian Olivier Clément, Reflecting on the well-known expression of one of the heroes of Dostoevsky’s “Beauty will save the world”, Clément came to the conclusion that the only inspired beauty with salutary benefits are those directly inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Chairman of the Section and the leading specialist in contemporary iconography, Irina Jazikova , Professor of Christian Art, presented an album dedicated to the work of one of the most noted Russian icon painters Alexander Sokolov
Participants in the conference, including, iconographers, carvers, and artisans, emphasized a consensus to move away from church art as mere imitation of a particular era in iconography (no matter how classic or not) but rather move toward a genuine expression of church art taking true and timeless beauty as inspired by the Holy Spirit in every era and presenting it today within the canon of church art and the creativity of the artist. Participants admitted that such a task is not easy to achieve but worthy of the effort. That is why such gatherings are necessary and important.