ArtWay

He who has most sympathy with his subject will obtain the best results. Henry Ossawa Tanner

Russia’s 1st Biennale of Christ-centered Art

Russia’s 1st Biennale of Christ-centered Art

 An opportunity of dialogue between the church and contemporary art

by Viktor Barashkov

The First Biennale of Christ-centered Art took place in Moscow from March 14 to June 13 this year (2021). For the Russian cultural sector this was a notable event, though we can name the exhibitions Dvoeslovie/Dialogue (2010), Art and religion in the space of modern culture (2013) and Gifts (2013) as its predecessors. The jury members of the Biennale (chairman – Hilarion Metropolitan of Volokolamsk) chose about 150 works of 67 artists that were exhibited on the territory of the Patriarchal Chernigov Metochion. The intention was to create a dialogue between  works of church art and contemporary artworks of a wide range of artists.

For the Orthodox culture the meaning of sacred images (icons) is as vivid as ever. Nevertheless, it is important to find new approaches in the dialogue of icons with believers of the 20th and 21st centuries. High artistic quality and the artist's personal approach to the icon are now deemed of equal importance. Hence the term author’s icon was proposed by the Russian art critic Irina Yazykova in 2015. This term points to the difference between the rendition of an icon by one master and another, which means that the icon can be made in a personal manner, a unique artistic style and can be based on the author’s own interpretation of the image.

The Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t exclude any artistic means for the aim of communicating a Christian message to the world: “Any creative style is suitable for speaking about Christ, if the artist's intention is sincerely pious and if he remains faithful to the Lord” (Bases of the Social Concept of the Russian Orthodox Church, 2000).

Curator of this Biennale artist Gor Chahal proposed a concept that builds on the similarity of art to the preaching of the Christian message: Christ-centered art. He believes that the unifying center should be Christ, the Savior of the World, who sets the direction of the development of the creative personality. This term can cover several concentric circles of the sacred creativity of contemporary artists, related to each other and complementing each other: 1. the circle of liturgical, canonical church art; 2. non-canonical or secular contemporary art (speaks about Christian issues in a modern artistic language); 3. the art that is indirectly connected with Christianity, which is close to it in spirit and worldview.

In the exhibition the following themes can be distinguished: the author's icon; interpretations of events from the life of Christ; interpretations of the gospel message in the contemporary public space; the transfer of the principles of icon painting (reverse perspective, motifs, colors, composition) into modern painting; comprehending the nature of sacred spaces; the theme of divine (Tabor) light; comprehending the experience of Christian prayer and spiritual virtues. In general the emphasis was on the theme of God and on the human spiritual development towards God.

On the ArtWay you can read about the works of artists Albert Soltanov and Elena Cherkasova, represented on the Biennale.

One of the most monumental works was Power by Dudya Sarabyanov. With a size of 230 by 330 cm it carries a great semantic load. This work was inspired by the artist’s trip to Mount Athos (important centre of Eastern Orthodox monasticism). It symbolizes the power of the prayers of the monks and the sacred atmosphere of the place.

Important for the biennale was the installation They prostrated themselves… (Gospel of Matthew, 17:6) by sculptor Anatoly Komelin. The installation represents through the image of the prostrate apostles an earthly aspect of the gospel narrative about the Transfiguration of the Lord. The installation was placed in the basement of the church, so it could symbolize both the Transfiguration of Lord and the Resurrection of the Lord.

The Biennale also was a competition. There were three nominations: Grand Prix, The Best Young Artist, and the People's Choice Award. The Grand Prix was won by icon-painter Alexander Chashkin. There were two of his works at the Biennale: Savior and Our Lady of Strength (both 2010). It makes sense that the author of the images of Christ and the Mother of God won this prize.

The prize for the best young artist was received by Olga Shumova for the photos of street art: Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing and Let their sword enter into their hearts, and let their hearts be broken. Concise visual language, the combination of images (cross, sword) and words, so characteristic for street art, give these works their strength. They are understandable to the modern viewer accustomed to minimalism.

The People's Choice Award was won by Elena Ferizba for the works Apostle Peter and Where do you go, O Lord? As written in the exhibition catalog, “The texture of the work, the cracks and scuffs – these are references to ancient frescoes, conveying the idea of the powerlessness of time over the eternal.”

 

One of the jury members, art historian Alexei Lidov, talked about the priority of spiritual meaning in relation to any form of embodiment, which can be a traditional icon, a performance, or a multimedia installation. This concept of hieroplastia was proposed in the 5th century AD by the theologian who called himself Dionysius the Areopagite. According to Lidov hieroplastia should be perceived as a basic value in the reviving of sacred art in modern culture.

*******

1. Dudya Sarabyanov (b. 1980), Power, 2020, paper, water-based paints, 230 × 330 cm.

2. Anatoly Komelin (b. 1953), They prostrated themselves, 2020, installation, variable dimensions.

3. Alexander Chashkin (b. 1946), Saviour, 2010, egg tempera, drying oil, gilt, 90 × 60 cm.

4. Alexander Chashkin (b. 1946), Our Lady of Strength, 2010, egg tempera, drying oil, gilding, 90 × 60 cm.

5. Olga Shumova (b. 1993), Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing, 2020, photo, gilding, 100 × 110 cm.

6. Olga Shumova (b. 1993)Let their sword enter into their hearts, and let their hearts be broken, 2020, photo, 150 × 100 cm.

7. Elena Ferizba (b. 1982), Apostle Peter, 2020, hardboard, mixed media: putty, sauce, sanguine, acrylic, 61 × 61 cm.

8. Elena Ferizba (b. 1982), Where do you go, O Lord?, 2020, hardboard, mixed media: putty, sauce, sanguine, acrylic, 61 × 61 cm.

There is now a catalogue of all works presented on Biennale with parallel text in English. For more information and images, see https://christ-art.ru/en/.

Viktor Barashkov is a Russian philosopher and art historian. He is Assistant Professor at the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies of Stoletovs’ Vladimir State University. The main fields of his interest are contemporary religious art and architecture, philosophy of culture and anthropology of religion. He is a member of the Russian National Section of International Association of Art Critics (AICA).


More:

24 August 2021 / On the Gifts of Street Art

by Jason Goroncy

These works represent an act of reclaiming public space for citizens rather than merely consumers.

Read more...


30 June 2021 / Jacques and Raïssa Maritain among the Artists

by David Lyle Jeffrey

About the influence of Jacques and Raïssa Maritain on Rouault, Chagall and Arcabas.

Read more...


13 May 2021 / GOD IS...

Chaiya Art Awards 2021 Exhibition: “God Is . . .”

by Victoria Emily Jones

Read more...


21 April 2021 / Photographing Religious Practice

by Jonathan Evens

The increasing prevalence of photographic series and books exploring aspects of religious practice gives witness to the return of religion in the arts.

Read more...


23 March 2021 / Constanza López Schlichting: Via Crucis

Perhaps what may be different from other Stations of the Cross is that it responds to a totally free expression and each station is a painting in itself. 

Read more...


10 February 2021 / Gert Swart: Four Cruciforms

In a post-Christian era, contemporary Christian artists have to find new ways of evoking the power of the cross. 

Read more...


08 January 2021 / Reflecting on a Gauguin Masterpiece

by Alan Wilson

An artist's reflection on Impressionism, Cezanne, Van Gogh and especially Gauguin's Vision after the Sermon.

Read more...


11 December 2020 / ArtWay Newsletter 2020

What makes the ArtWay platform so special is its worldwide scope thanks to its multilingual character. There are ArtWay visitors in all countries on this planet. 

Read more...


27 October 2020 / Art Pilgrimage

A Research Project on Art Stations of the Cross

by Lieke Wijnia

Read more...


18 September 2020 / Interview with Peter Koenig

by Jonathan Evens

Koenig's practice demonstrates that the way to avoid blandness in religious art is immersion in Scripture.

Read more...


17 August 2020 / BOOK REVIEW BY HEINRICH BALZ

How Other Cultures See the Bible

Christian Weber, Wie andere Kulturen die Bibel sehen. Ein Praxisbuch mit 70 Kunstwerken aus 33 Ländern.

Read more...


17 July 2020 / The Calling Window by Sophie Hacker

by Jonathan Evens  

In 2018 British artist Sophie Hacker was approached to design a window for Romsey Abbey to celebrate the bicentenary of the birth of Florence Nightingale.

Read more...


12 June 2020 / A little leaven leavens the whole lump

From South Africa

Ydi Carstens reports on the group show ‘Unleavened’ which was opened in Stellenbosch shortly before the Covid-19 lock-down. 

Read more...


14 May 2020 / Jazz, Blues, and Spirituals

Republished: 

Hans Rookmaaker, Jazz, Blues, and Spirituals. The Origins and Spirituality of Black Music in the United States. 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evens

Read more...


17 April 2020 / Andy Warhol: Catholicism, Work, Faith And Legacy

by Jonathan Evens 

While Warhol’s engagement with faith was complex it touched something which was fundamental, not superficial.

Read more...


25 March 2020 / Sacred Geometry in Christian Art

by Sophie Hacker

This blog unravels aspects of sacred geometry and how it has inspired art and architecture for millennia. 

Read more...


22 February 2020 / Between East and West

By Kaori Homma

Being in this limbo between day and night makes me question, “Where does the east end and the west start?”

Read more...


15 February 2020 / Imagination at Play

by Marianne Lettieri

To deny ourselves time to laugh, be with family and friends, and fuel our passions, we get caught in what Cameron calls the “treadmill of virtuous production.”

Read more...


07 December 2019 / ArtWay Newsletter 2019

An update by our editor-in-chief 
and
the ArtWay List of Books 2019

Read more...


16 November 2019 / Scottish Miracles and Parables Exhibition

Alan Wilson: "Can there be a renewal of Christian tradition in Scottish art, where ambitious artists create from a heartfelt faith, committed to their Lord and saviour as well as their craft?"

Read more...


23 September 2019 / Dal Schindell Tribute

While Dal’s ads and sense of humour became the stuff of legends, it was his influence on the arts at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada that may be his biggest legacy. 

Read more...


04 September 2019 / The Aesthetics of John Calvin

Calvin stated that 'the faithful see sparks of God's glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.'

Read more...


31 July 2019 / The Legend of the Artist

by Beat Rink

The image of the 'divine' artist becomes so dominant that artists take their orientation from it and lead their lives accordingly.

Read more...


02 July 2019 / Quotes by Tim Keller

Many “Christian art” productions are in reality just ways of pulling artists out of the world and into the Christian subculture.

Read more...


08 June 2019 / The Chaiya Art Awards

by Jonathan Evens

The Chaiya Art Awards 2018 proved hugely popular, with over 450 entries and more than 2,700 exhibition visitors.

Read more...


29 May 2019 / Art Stations of the Cross: Reflections

by Lieke Wynia

In its engagement with both Biblical and contemporary forms of suffering, the exhibition addressed complex topical issues without losing a sense of hope out of sight.

Read more...


03 May 2019 / Marianne Lettieri: Relics Reborn

Items that show the patina of time and reveal the wear and tear of human interaction are carriers of personal and collective history. 

Read more...


27 April 2019 / Franciscan and Dominican Arts of Devotion

by John Skillen 

This manner of prayer stirs up devotion, the soul stirring the body, and the body stirring the soul.

Read more...


13 March 2019 / Makoto Fujimura and the Culture Care Movement

by Victoria Emily Jones

Culture care is a generative approach to culture that brings bouquets of flowers into a culture bereft of beauty.

Read more...


08 January 2019 / Building a Portfolio of People

by Marianne Lettieri

Besides hard work in the studio, networking may be the single most important skill for a sustainable art practice.

Read more...


01 December 2018 / ArtWay Newsletter December 2018

ArtWay has Special Plans for 2019!

After London, Washington D.C. and New York the city of Amsterdam in the Netherlands is now the anticipated location for a prominent art exhibition with the title Art Stations of the Cross.

Read more...


11 October 2018 / The Life, Art and Legacy of Charles Eamer Kempe

Book Review by Jonathan Evens

The significance and spirituality of the work is made clear in ways which counteract the stereotype of mass production of a static style.

Read more...


13 September 2018 / A Visit to the Studio of Georges Rouault

by Jim Alimena

Everything we saw and learned reinforced my picture of a great man of faith and a great artist. 

Read more...


09 August 2018 / With Opened Eyes: Representational Art

by Ydi Coetsee

How do we respond to the ‘lost innocence’ of representational art? 

Read more...


13 July 2018 / True Spirituality in the Arts

by Edith Reitsema

Living in Christ should lead us away from living with a segregated view of life, having a sacred-secular split. 

Read more...


17 May 2018 / Beholding Christ in African American Art

Book review by Victoria Emily Jones

One of the hallmarks of Beholding Christ is the diversity of styles, media, and denominational affiliations represented.

Read more...


23 April 2018 / Short Introduction to Hans Rookmaaker

by Marleen Hengelaar-Rookmaaker

On the occasion of the establishment of the Rookmaaker Jazz Scholarship at Covenant College, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 12 March 2018

Read more...


04 April 2018 / International Art Residency in India

Art for Change, a New Delhi based arts organization with a vision to see art shape society with beauty and truth, will be running its 6th annual International Artist Residency in November 2018.

Read more...


15 March 2018 / The Stations of the Cross at Blackburn Cathedral

by Penny Warden  

Perhaps the central challenge for the artist in imaging the body of Christ is the problem of representing the dual natures of the doctrine of the incarnation.

Read more...


23 February 2018 / Between the Shadow and the Light

By Rachel Hostetter Smith

In June 2013 a group of twenty North American and African artists from six African countries met for two weeks of intensive engagement with South Africa.

Read more...


30 January 2018 / Sacred Geometry in Christian Art

by Sophie Hacker

This blog unravels aspects of sacred geometry and how it has inspired art and architecture for millennia. 

Read more...


01 January 2018 / Jonathan Evens writes about Central Saint Martins

Why would Central Saint Martins, a world-famous arts and design college and part of University of the Arts London, choose to show work by its graduates in a church?

Read more...


06 December 2017 / ArtWay Newsletter December, 2017

ArtWay's Chairman Wim Eikelboom: "The visual arts cultivate a fresh and renewed view of deeply entrenched values. That is why ArtWay is happy to provide an online platform for art old and new."

Read more...


14 November 2017 / The Moral Imagination: Art and Peacebuilding

In the context of conflict transformation the key purpose of creative expression is to provide a venue for people to tell their stories, and for their stories to be heard.

Read more...


24 October 2017 / Bruce Herman: Ut pictura poesis?

For the last couple hundred of years the arts have largely been in "experimentation mode"—moving away from the humble business of craft and service toward ideas, issues, and theory.

Read more...


04 October 2017 / David Jeffrey: Art and Understanding Scripture

The purpose of In the Beauty of Holiness: Art and the Bible in Western Culture is to help deepen the reader’s understanding of the magnificence of the Bible as a source for European art.

Read more...


08 September 2017 / David Taylor: The Aesthetics of John Calvin

Calvin stated that 'the faithful see sparks of God's glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theater of divine glory.'

Read more...


23 August 2017 / ​Reconstructed by Anikó Ouweneel

A much talked-about exposition in the NoordBrabants Museum in The Netherlands showed works by modern and contemporary Dutch artists inspired by traditional Catholic statues of Christ and the saints. 

Read more...


04 July 2017 / Pilgrimage to Venice – The Venice Biennale 2017

When I start to look at the art works, I notice a strange rift between this pleasant environment and the angst and political engagement present in the works of the artists. 

Read more...


24 June 2017 / Collecting as a Calling

After many years of compiling a collection of religious art, I have come to realize that collecting is a calling. I feel strongly that our collection has real value and that it is a valuable ministry. 

Read more...


02 June 2017 / I Believe in Contemporary Art

By Alastair Gordon

In recent years there has been a growing interest in questions of religion in contemporary art. Is it just a passing fad or signs of renewed faith in art? 

Read more...


04 April 2017 / Stations of the Cross - Washington, DC 2017

by Aaron Rosen

We realized that the Stations needed to speak to the acute anxiety facing so many minorities in today’s America and beyond. 

Read more...


07 March 2017 / Socially Engaged Art

A discussion starter by Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin

Growing dissatisfaction with an out-of-touch, elite and market driven art world has led artists to turn to socially engaged art. 

Read more...


01 February 2017 / Theodore Prescott: Inside Sagrada Familia

The columns resemble the trunks of trees. Gaudi conceived of the whole interior as a forest, where the nave ceiling would invoke the image of an arboreal canopy.

Read more...


03 January 2017 / Steve Scott tells about his trips to Bali

In the Balinese shadow play the puppet master pulls from a repertoire of traditional tales and retells them with an emphasis on contemporary moral and spiritual lessons. 

Read more...


09 December 2016 / Newsletter ArtWay December 2016

Like an imitation of a good thing past, these days of darkness surely will not last. Jesus was here and he is coming again, to lead us to the festival of friends.

Read more...


01 November 2016 / LAbri for Beginners

What is the role of the Christian artist? Is it not to ‘re-transcendentalise’ the transcendent, to discern what is good in culture, and to subvert what is not with a prophetic voice?

Read more...


30 September 2016 / Book Review by Jonathan Evens

Jonathan Koestlé-Cate, Art and the Church: A Fractious Embrace - Ecclesiastical Encounters with Contemporary Art, Routledge, 2016.

Read more...


01 September 2016 / Review: Modern art and the life of a culture

The authors say they want to help the Christian community recognize the issues raised in modern art and to do so in ways that are charitable and irenic. But I did not find them so. Their representation of Rookmaaker seems uncharitable and at times even misleading. 

Read more...


29 July 2016 / Victoria Emily Jones on Disciplining our Eyes

There’s nothing inherently wrong with images—creating or consuming. In fact, we need them. But we also need to beware of the propensity they have to plant themselves firmly in our minds. 

Read more...


30 June 2016 / Aniko Ouweneel on What is Christian Art?

Pekka Hannula challenges the spectator to search for the source of the breath we breathe, the source of what makes life worth living, the source of our longing for the victory of redemptive harmony.

Read more...


09 June 2016 / Theodore Prescott: The Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia is a visual encyclopedia of Christian narrative and Catholic doctrine as Gaudi sought to embody the faith through images, symbols, and expressive forms.

Read more...


19 May 2016 / Edward Knippers: Do Clothes make the Man?

Since the body is the one common denominator for all of humankind, why do we fear to uncover it? Why is public nudity a shock or even a personal affront?

Read more...


27 April 2016 / Alexandra Harper: Culture Care

Culture Care is an invitation to create space within the local church to invest our talents, time and tithes in works that lean into the Kingdom of God as creative agents of shalom. 

Read more...


06 April 2016 / Jonathan Evens on Contemporary Commissions

The issue of commissioning secular artists versus artists of faith represents false division and unnecessary debate. The reality is that both have resulted in successes and failures.

Read more...


12 March 2016 / Betty Spackman: Creativity and Depression

When our whole being is wired to fly outside the box, life can become a very big challenge. To carve oneself into a square peg for the square holes of society, when you are a round peg, is painful to say the least.

Read more...


24 February 2016 / Jim Watkins: Augustine and the Senses

Augustine is not saying that sensual pleasure is bad, but that it is a mixed good. As his Confessions so clearly show, Augustine is painfully aware of how easily he can take something good and turn it into something bad. 

Read more...


11 February 2016 / H.R. Rookmaaker: Does Art Need Justification?

Art is not a religion, nor an activity relegated to a chosen few, nor a mere worldly, superfluous affair. None of these views of art does justice to the creativity with which God has endowed man.

Read more...


26 January 2016 / Ned Bustard: The Bible is Not Safe

Revealed is intended to provoke surprise, even shock. It shows that the Bible is a book about ordinary people, who are not only spiritual beings, but also greedy, needy, hateful, hopeful, selfish, and sexual.

Read more...


14 January 2016 / Painting by Nanias Maira from Papua New Guinea

In 2011 Wycliffe missionary Peter Brook commissioned artist Nanias Maira, who belongs to the Kwoma people group of northwestern Papua New Guinea, to paint Bible stories in the traditional style for which he is locally known. 

Read more...