I am a Russian iconographer living and working in Australia. I belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church (Ecumenical Patriarchate). My professional background is fine arts with specialisation in book illustration and design.
Apart from painting sacred images I also restore Roman Catholic statues and write on topics related to personhood, from a joint theological and psychological perspective. A number of my papers are about the peculiar set of problems presented to a believer by post-traumatic stress disorder i.e. how childhood trauma shapes a person’s psyche in a way that impairs or even destroys their ability to become attached to God. My particular interests are Christian mystical theology and lives of saints-mystics, of both the Eastern and Western Churches.
See below for information helpful to understanding the character and purpose of my work, and also guidelines for commissions and purchases:
Formation - The Iconographic Canon - Style - How I work - Commission and purchase - Education - Representation
I was born in Moscow, in the then U.S.S.R. I was a student at the College of Fine Arts when Perestroika with its glasnost and freedom of faith broke in. The Russian Orthodox Church was allowed to come out and to preach for the first time since 1917. As a result, many discovered faith and converted to Orthodoxy, me included. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have come across the works of Fr Alexander Men which revealed to me the reality of the living relationship with God opening to me the humanity of the Son of God and making it possible to relate to Him as Person.
As it was with many iconographers of my generation, my engagement with icon painting was a natural outcome of my conversion and desire to live my faith through my profession, art. At some point my confessor recommended to me to move to actual icon painting. Over the years my “secular works” have been gradually reducing and the work of icons increasing. Now I work almost exclusively on icons.
Like most iconographers, I initially went through a period of trying various historical styles of icon painting. With time however I realized that preoccupation with the strict following of a particular style was taking my attention from the true purpose of an icon i.e. the sincere expression of the presence of a Person in a way that helps a believer’s prayer to Him. Any style of Christian art, as I see it, is a reflection of the life of the Church in a particular period of time and also of the person of an iconographer, their way of relating to God and this is why Christian art is anything but uniform. Gradually I began painting icons as it felt natural to me: abandoning deliberate stylisation and incorporating what was useful from my learning and practice as an artist.
The Iconographic Canon
It must be clearly stated that my approach had nothing to do with “unrestrained artistic self-expression”. As a member of the Church, I totally submit to the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church proscribing how to make liturgical art, often called “the iconographic canon”. This tradition is concerned with theologically significant things like symbolism, approved iconographic schemes, treatments of icons, rules for iconographers and so on, and does not prescribe (contrary to what is often said) styles or materials. “The iconographic canon”, in essence, is the host of sacred images produced within the Church and deemed by it to be in a full agreement with Christian theology, within certain conventions of visual language, made with an appropriate attitude and suitable for prayer. It can be fully understood only via active participation in the liturgical life of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Likewise, an icon cannot be seen truly and understood outside of the context of prayer.
How I work
My major focus, in my life and work, is Our Lord; because of this I especially appreciate the opportunity to paint His image (that is not to say that I do not love making other icons). I feel particular affinity with the holy images which depict Him as most approachable – with early Christian and medieval Western art, especially schools of Siena and Pisa, Spanish polychrome statues and also those images in which a blend of the West and East is evident, something I tend to do in my own work. However, each icon dictates its own unique approach.
I mostly work with egg tempera, a traditional medium which I prefer to any other because it allows the achievement of a luminosity impossible with any other media. This luminosity is due to the play of light on the crystals of the natural pigments and to the technique itself. This effect is perceptible while looking at the originals but not when viewing photos. I grind pigments and make my own paints, so as boards.
I do not make exact copies of other icons but always create my own version based on suitable prototypes. The initial stage of work on an icon, the preparatory drawing, is very important for me. I read about the saint depicted/their writings when available. I draw and pray asking them to help me to decide what version is most suitable (prayer of course is a part of my work at all stages).
When finished, the drawing is transferred to the board and the detailed monochrome under-paint is made (for the purpose of giving additional depth to the following layers of colours), with gilding if needed.
Only then comes the actual painting with egg tempera which is, technically speaking, a very slow process of building up multiple layers of transparent paint in various ways – glazing, drawing, etc.
After drying for several weeks an icon may be varnished.
“An average icon” i.e. about 20 x 30 cm, of one person with well-known iconography takes a minimum two weeks to paint. This time does not include making the board and drying time.
Commission and purchase
If you wish to commission me an icon (I paint icons of the saints approved by the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches) please contact me for a discussion of your proposal and a quote. More detailed information like your personal connection with the Saint, examples of the depictions you particularly like etc. is beneficial for the work. Traditionally, an iconographer asks one for whom she is working to pray for her; while painting she is praying to Whom she is painting. A good icon, then, is born out of the communication, between the commissioner, the iconographer, and the One depicted.
If you are interested in purchasing an existing icon please refer to the page “icons for purchase”.
1993 – 1998 Moscow State University of Printing Arts, Master’s Degree in Graphic Arts
1984 – 1988 Moscow Art College, Diploma of Graphic Arts
Private collections and churches: Australia, Russia, UK, USA.