“We constantly rethink – some kind of Holy Russia, a kind of Byzantium”

“We are not amazed: “Wow, He’s got two shirts, one blue – a symbol of the Sky…” We are looking for genuine, real.” Why is beauty more important in the iconography of meaning, what’s the problem of modern religious art, and how it works in the temple, a few steps from the killed children – reflects the iconographer Alexander Soldatov, a senior teacher of Icon painting school at the Moscow theological Academy.

Alexander Soldatov. Photo: Sergey Shedrin

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“Holy father, give us something to paint”

Please tell us how you started, what was your first job in iconography?

His first temple I painted as much as in 1986, even before the 1000th anniversary of the baptism of Rus, Archbishop Varsonofy. It is now he is Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga, and then was Abbot, and then Archimandrite. That he gave me, and baptized.

I met with him very funny, in my native Penza. I – and my friends – crazy young artists, which, as usual, nothing to eat, shared with a friend came to mind thought: “let’s Go we to the Church will meet any priest, ask for something to paint, we will give money”.

Went and I ran right into Bishop Varsonofy, that is, if the father Varsonofy. About the Church, of course, we knew nothing and asked: “Holy father, we can get you something to paint”. He said, “you Guys were in the right place,” and immediately made to read the Confessions of St. Augustine.

– That is the first icon you wrote, not being baptized?

– I was baptized just a month after I started to read “the Confession” – the process went quickly and unexpectedly for me. That is, the first icon started to write not baptized, and ended a member of the Church.

Since then many years have passed, for 27 years as I am a teacher of icon painting. But I can say that so far we have no idea what the icon.

All sorts of conversations that began in the early twentieth century, about a certain window in some worlds and some energy is all pure occultism, Neoplatonism. That time gave rise to much of the mythology associated with passion such concepts as symbols.

– So what is icon?

– The icon of three main functions. The first function known to all. The icon is an image proxy and helper in prayer, it’s understandable. This function has its own characteristics, because every Orthodox culture has its traditions of piety and way of prayer. Because the icon of the Copts is one kind, among the Greeks, another, in Russian – the third. So a Russian man, probably easier to not pray in Coptic icon or the icon of the Gothic style, and one that is more familiar to its traditions of piety.

The second function of the icon is that she is part of the liturgical art.

There is a third feature that, unfortunately, we have completely gone into oblivion. This third function of the icon in common with any genuine art, and the meaning of it is that the icon – a hymn to the glory of God through beauty. God gave us beauty, and people in co-creation, singing the hymn to the glory of God, continues this beauty in his creations, in works of art.

There is a theological triad of truth, good, beauty, without her there is no theology. In an era of high divinity, to about the end of the XVI century this triad maintained its unity, indivisibility and nesmeshivaemost of these concepts. In the modern era had a major disaster – there was a division of the triad into separate components: truth becomes a science, the good in ethics, and beauty in aesthetics. Entering into the theological triad, the beauty before the era of art Nouveau was an objective category, as it remains, in fact. Beauty is a property of the created being, God created the world.

Archive Alexandra Soldatova

When the beauty category has become the objective for a person in the subjective, has changed, and creativity. Because beauty has become attached to the person, the creativity was self-expression, while previously it was a Testament to the beauty.

I have a selection of photos – the clouds of Jupiter, the grains of sand under a microscope, the stones are all incredibly beautiful!God created the world beautiful. In a time when beauty is separated from truth and good, that is, from the theological categories becomes a science of aesthetics, it ceases to be objective evidence of the glory of God becomes a subjective category, just a human experience.

And begin the process of the substitution of a sublime beauty, she goes on the back burner and on the front float of the subjective meanings of symbols, signs, etc., etc.

– Beauty fades, and sublime?

– The notion of the sublime goes after Nietzsche declared the death of God.

Contemporary art operates in only one concept – interesting. For example, it is interesting from the pile of scrap metal to weld some such thing, and if its side to illuminate projector, then on the wall it will give a shadow – a replica of, say, the motorcycle “Honda”. This is interesting.

Gertrude Stein in the 20-ies of the last century, says a very important phrase that beauty is only for candy wrappers. True art must be defiantly ugly. The most important is the meanings that it carries.

If we take the “Black square” of Malevich – it’s still aesthetics, this is an area of beauty, the residual beauty, the last, final exit. Duchamp’s urinal – it is not beauty, this is a brand new project of postmodernism, a final rejection of beauty as such.

Terrible createprocessa entering a new era. Beauty was off, replaced the first on the sublime, then interesting.

Beauty in the Western world to this day virtually banned. In the Orthodox world, unfortunately, forgotten, and distorted view. It is attributed to, in the best case, the function of the pious clothes of some noble sense. Everything is turned on its head.

We Park staged: rebirth, immersion in Holy Russia

– Therefore, modern man is difficult to understand an icon?

We now just want something to revive some kind of ancient Rus’, a kind of Byzantium.

The challenge for any painter, artist, Christian is not to live all the time with his head turned back is unnatural state, from this broken cervical vertebrae, the person just dies. But we live in this state, and for a long time. Because we interpret the icon, depicting.

The icon was always answered in the most vivid and direct way to the challenges of theology. She really was a theology in color, which is not true of a modern icon. Rather, in the modern state, modern people perceived as mechanical constructs polumogina subjective meanings to colors.

What we are confused? As for the person to remain in atheism is unnatural, the Soviet people had a very strong desire for some kind of metaphysics, here, by the way, all these Hobbies Kashpirovskiy, some “spiritual”.

Our generation has largely come to Church looking for more is Christ and spirituality, a kind of metaphysics. Remember your way, and Christ was almost in the background, in the foreground – the same “spirituality”: the elders, the spiritual, grace, talk about it.

– What, in your opinion, today the main problems of Church art?

– All the problems of Church art rooted solely in theology. I must say that theology as such we have never had, had to substitute for Russian religious thought, which ended miserably failed the neopatristic synthesis.

And now there is no theology. What today is called theology, but rather refers to the history of theology, or rather, the history of the same Russian religious thought.

All this, of course, is reflected in Church art, as a direct participant in the process.

Accordingly, having no divinity, we all went towards the revival of Church art, perceiving it as a reconstruction. We like this Park staged – the endless rebirth and immersion in the Golden XV century, the Holy Rus.

To evangelize the beginning with beauty

– But the icon is still sacred…

Let’s be wary to use this concept, because it is not Christian terminology. I said from the beginning that around the icons a lot of mythology.

Where in the minds of people absolutely occult ideas about the icon in fact as an idol?

There is a notion of “symbol”. Father Pavel Florensky once said that the character has a top and bottom border. The lower boundary almost slipping in sign when the image and the prototype loses between any connection. The upper limit of the symbol characteristic of paganism, where the boundary between the signifier and the signified, between the symbol and symbolized. That is, it is about the idol.

Here it is necessary to touch on the important topics. The icon shows the glory of God and interpreting, shows. But it is through beauty, and depicts, through symbols and signs.

Father Paul is very risky approached the upper boundary, and for him, the icon was revealed the glory of God, not by beauty, but by means of signs, values, meanings.

In the end, the loss of the value of beauty, reducing it in the area just pious decorations of meanings. In fact, all these meanings – just comments on the beauty.

Without a return to the Grand style of theology all this humanitarian husk – where it indicates that the symbol will disappear as unnecessary.

Here’s your icon of the Savior, a Christ – red tunic, blue robe, all the traditions of iconography to say about the symbolism of color…

– Meanings are necessary and important, but that comes later. Characters taking us away from deep. Beauty is the surface of the mold. We are even afraid of the word “surface”, we just want some depth. Modern man is imprisoned – depth meanings, “you are too superficial,” as a terrible reproach.

Austrian philosopher Hans Gumbrecht talks about two types of European culture of the presence and cultural significance. Illustrates his thought he on the example of the Eucharist: Orthodox and Catholics looking like bread and wine truly partake the Body and Blood of Christ, a Protestant is merely a symbol, an icon, just a memory of the event is two big differences. There is a genuine phenomenon, the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ, but it’s just a value.

We all still live in the paradigm of cultural values. It is very important that what it means. It’s all important, but this is the second, this person needs at the second stage.

First, we need a personal encounter with Christ. When it happens, we marvel at the image of Christ, not meanings. We are not amazed: “Wow, He’s got two shirts, one blue – a symbol of the Sky…”

Even right hard to remember, can be confused easily. But when you see genuine, real, then all at once it is clear, you do not need any explanation. Explanation later in effect.

It is clear that there is some symbolism, but again, it varies.

– You say that the icon should testify to the beauty of God’s world. But because there are other laws, such as reverse perspective, and therefore to say that it shows us another world.

You this inverse term will be met, for example, Picasso, who from childhood have not seen any icons. Look at antique, the same reverse perspective.

This triad of “truth-good-beauty” was any normal theology. But to theologize started in different historical periods, with something of one, then another and the third passed. Sometimes I started with the truth, then move on to the good and beauty. Sometimes I started with good, then he moved on to truth and beauty.

It is now a historical era, to preach the gospel to the preferred since the beauty. It is only where we get together. In a sense, we do not get together. Have a look at our Russian Orthodox society: we are patriots and have the liberals. There meanings and there meanings. All these are the fruits of the same modernity, they fight and will fight until the end of time. This is actually the same, it’s all fighting for the same meanings. But they will never agree on the meanings.

And beauty can come together, because beauty is something we actually have in common.

As the rebellion to drag in the icon

– How do you feel about the experiences in contemporary Christian art?

– In the autumn, for example, young painters organized the exhibition – one of the exhibits – bath with candles. I am sad to see how young guys become instantly elderly, and centenarians. Because all this was done almost a hundred years ago, after Gertrude Stein, the candy wrappers, and for us some important meanings.

My annoyance comes from the fact that all these searches were in Europe 100 years ago. Wake up, guys, you eat three eaten the product – everything is already found, it’s all obsolete.

If we these old “search for” drag icon, you have to understand that cracktoberfest in a sense is a rebellion. As the rebellion to drag up the icon, I don’t understand.

We have all modern art is very often some meanings. Often these meanings can be anti-social, protest. Often, these meanings are very good, humanitarian, great. They, of course, necessary. But if art is only concerned with social – it is not art.

Because art is, once again, is the third feature that is equally inherent in the icon and any high art is a hymn to the glory of God through beauty.

– How can you change the situation?

– First of all, not have any illusions – it’s all instantly be born. After the appearance of thought must hundred years that she began to be implemented. In Europe, it is in the ‘ 90s began, and we are not even started. So you need to start.

It is necessary to go on any big channels and just arrange a program of beauty without ideology, without imposing where you will be told about the importance of beauty, its role, which will show this beauty, there are such programmes in the West. People need to educate gradually.

It is clear that the first goal is a return to the beauty and theology. The second goal is to return the icon to the plane of art. Everything is still in the Church, often not art, no color, no color, no drawing, no painting, nothing.

With a few exceptions.

All our attempts to copy the XV century is ludicrous, because we art can not be returned.

Can you imagine, for example, an exhibition of contemporary young artists, which will entirely copy Serov, Arkhip Kuindzhi, Vrubel or Rembrandt, Raphael? On the walls are only copies, and the organizers of the exhibition say: “Look, what progress! How will our young guys to copy!” It you can’t imagine. Now imagine any modern exhibition of icons, you will see there is completely copy.

– Today, under those conditions, you are talking about, you need to paint churches?

– Was a different era in theology. Was the era of cosmology, when people imagined being a part of the cosmos. In this era created large ensembles of paintings, where any Church from itself represented space, hence the carpet padding.

Then comes the era of anthropology, when you start implemented the ideas of Hesychasm, in the icons – work with the light, seek God within yourself.

Today, I think, iron filling the spaces of the temples are not important, not relevant, obsolete. Moreover, we simply can not cope, we are so incompetent, not able to work nor color, nor color, nor plastic, nor space For it… there is no need to take, because this one is not convincing. This cosmology, or the Bible for the illiterate – now is not necessary for two reasons: first, the modern man the idea of space is different; second, the Bible for the illiterate too. Today you can pick up the phone and get any information.

The task of the modern painter – almost as in early Christian art. Early Christian art – it is almost not art, wrote Vladimir Weidle. What we see in the catacombs – late Roman painting, and often of very poor quality. Take Pompeii, there is a much higher artistic level, and in the catacombs all the easier. What hurts us there? Eyes. Extraordinary pathos with child-like faith of the early Christians – all in the eyes.

In early Christian art is just a lot of characters.

– Not characters impress. In these symbols we do not understand. All the talk about them is the interpretation of modern man, at one and the same symbol can be seen 5, 6, 10 versions of different interpretations. We, modern people, critics, humanists, inventing interpretations to these symbols. It’s OK, but not impressive.

I remember the impression of the images of the eyes, upraised hands, the dynamics of each figure.

Any picture online is brighter and more beautiful our paintings. The screen is much stronger than hurt the young man.

Now I am working in Beslan – 20 feet killed the children

– How to be a liturgical significance?

We can do something, focusing on a small number of, because doing a lot of we are unable. Let’s do a few images, a few eyeballs, but it needs to be real high-pitched images and the eye than I am now puzzled again by true beauty. Not symbols – symbols are also important, but the characters again, and especially anyone not already convinced.

The only way we will return to Church art in the area of great art, real art, where it will operate a beauty.

Archive Alexandra Soldatova

How to start a painting of the Church? With the program painting. Why are we fixated on the programmes of the XIV-XV century, the newly remodel, where to portray? In XIV-XV century in certain places portrayed a certain composition, it was associated with a specific theological context. There are things that are really immutable, for example, you cannot cancel or halo, for example, the scene of the Eucharist in the apse.

And there are changeable things, for example, the assumption could be represented on the West wall, and could not be represented.

Archive Alexandra Soldatova

Now I work in the temple in Beslan, the site of the tragedy. Twenty steps to where the children were killed. I thought it would be hard, but it is very easy to spell.

There are two major themes to do with death in Christianity: the first Millennium of Christ on the cross was portrayed with open eyes and joyful as I have; the second Millennium It is dead with his eyes closed. The first thousand years was dominated by the theme of Easter joy and victory over death.

Relevant is the theme of my wailing and weeping, in this temple? No. The temple dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ, and I needed some way to reveal the theme of Easter joy, to overcome death. Then I have to draw a certain range of color, based on black (just what I heresy accused). This Burgundy and purple is a Royal color, the color of blood, in a sense, the color of Christ, the color of joy.

Why, slipping deeper under the surface of beauty, we lose very much? What we can see the beauty of the eyes, are not transferable to any characters and no words.

So I was born a certain program of painting, and she is born simultaneously with thought.

We must come to the temple with the creative mood to continue the beauty of God’s world, responding to it.

When beauty is not subjective but objective category, the artist no sloweracting, he’s not expressing herself at all, he is a witness of beauty, a witness to the glory of God.

How practically to do it, to respond to beauty?

– The XX century is permeated with the pathos of active activism – to build something up to global killing everyone and all social systems. It all started at the beginning of the century, when not rejected God, the gospel, but it was assumed that all this should be put aside and immediately start to build, to build something that eventually led to terrible bloody disasters around the world. Yes, the senses help to reveal the beauty, but without it, in themselves they are nothing, or at best some kind of private value in a particular historical period. Attention to them at all could end is sad, because communism, fascism – it is also the senses.

We now understand that this whole era of activism has failed miserably. But somehow again, we Christians, that we begin to build, to erect. But activism is harmful, including for art.

Art is not the banners, the slogans, not the service of ideologies, this is all for the Christian, should be interesting.

Where beauty is tied to the person, there is an artist expressing herself expresses some kind of ideology. But his task in the other – in a very attentive, intense scrutinizing the surrounding beauty.

And this contemplation leads us to the glory of God, which in turn gives rise to extraordinary joy, prayer, desire, creativity, the desire to sing a hymn to the glory of God. The artist is going through the colors, to the composer – by means of sounds, the poet through words.

I so much criticize because criticizing himself. I’ve done my activism for 30 years, when we pulled in the post-Soviet era Komsomol enthusiasm, trying to revive and build. Now is the time to recover and to begin to learn this careful scrutinizing.

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