Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Devotion, Design and Decoration - How Liturgical Art Influences the Wider Culture

What is so interesting about the work of iconographers Philip Davydov and Olga Shalamova, as seen on their website sacredmurals.com, is how they are experimenting with style and medium. The icons and murals are in accord with the tradition, albeit with a very 21st-century look to them, but they are also prepared also to move into derivative art that might not considered iconographic, but is nevertheless influenced by it. They use unusual media and draw on modern compositional design style as one might see in book illustration, for example. At this point, they don’t move very far from the iconographic prototype; some might still consider them to be within the tradition, but pushing the envelope.

I am guessing that they refer to this art as decoration and “graphic works” because they are aware that they might be going beyond the bounds into places where some purists night hold their noses. However, I am excited by this trend. I think this is not only interesting artistically, but it is actually a necessary part of the development of a Christian culture.

While I am interested in creativity and innovation in the application of the principles of any authentic artistic liturgical tradition, I am most certainly not interested in undermining the principles themselves. This is why I think that the best approach is to be conservative in regard to the art we put in churches. We are playing with people’s souls if we experiment in church.

However, there is room for art that is devotional, illustrative and simply decorative that is not liturgical, and so should not be in church. We need art that is clearly derived from the liturgical forms, but is distinct from it and directs us to the purest form, so to speak, by being part of the wider culture of faith. This is the beginning of the process by which the liturgy, which is a source of its own culture, begins to push out into the wider culture and transform it into a Christian culture.

I think it is a sign that the recently reestablished iconographic tradition is flourishing and reaching a maturity that we can see this happening. May it continue to happen!

So in the pictures I show below, I give you first some of the more conventional icons, and then items referred to as “graphic designs.”

And graphic works:

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