Head of Artists Artel in Cathedral of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God: “Such works are extremely rare in Russia now”
The painter about painting the vaults of the restored Cathedral of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God
The Orthodox world has recently celebrated the feast of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God. This year, for objective reasons, there has been no traditional religious procession. However, prayers are also held in the Church of the Kazan Image of the Virgin, at the walls of which the procession of believers usually ends, and on the square in front of the Kazan-Bogoroditsky Monastery, the restoration of which is almost finished. . The head of the Artel of Artists, Vyacheslav Pakhomov, told the correspondent of Realnoe Vremya about the images created by his team under the arches of the temple, about how many years the painting will “live” without restoration, and who today creates subjects for temple frescoes.
Whether artists need to keep the fast
Mr Pakhomov, initially in Russia, icon painters, before starting work, kept the fast, were purged by prayer, and started working after communion and blessing. How do modern artists work with paintings in churches?
Indeed, we mostly employ church-going artists. But what else is the point? Temple painting is not exactly icon painting. Artists keep the fast like everyone else for a year, but their direct daily work requires considerable physical energy. This is not a small icon to sit poring over in the workshop. Here they have to go to the woods sometimes. We do not have rigid attitudes in painting itself, such as in icon painting. We create genre scenes.
Mr Pakhomov, some of the paintings are almost finished. What will we see under the arches? It is already clear that these are four large paintings on biblical subjects.
The semicircular arches of the north and south sides of the temple are called “lunettes”. On the eastern and western walls, there are convex surfaces, these are “conches”. On the great north lunette of the cathedral, we see King David carrying the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. The authors of the composition — Yevgeny Kravtsov and Alexander Akopov — created it on the basis of those rare small records of what was in the temple initially before its destruction.
Temple painting is not exactly icon painting. Artists keep the fast like everyone else for a year, but their direct daily work requires considerable physical energy. This is not a small icon to sit poring over in the workshop. Here they have to go to the woods sometimes
It all starts with a pencil sketch
Does it take a long way for sketches before appearing on the wall of the temple?
Certainly. This is a very long process. First, the composition is approved, the position of the figures and color solutions are “adjusted”. Initially, a pencil sketch is made, then everything is translated into the form of a sketch — this is more detailed work in pencil. Then a color sketch is made, and all these stages are approved by a specially created commission. Only after a more detailed colour sketch is approved, the artists proceed to the so-called “cartoon”. That is, the drawing is transferred to the wall first in one colour — this is called “grizal”, after which they add colour and perform the composition, which we now see at the final stage.
How much time does it take from grizal to the end of work on one composition?
The “carrying the ark” was completed in about 2 months.
Who is working on the design of vaults, bas-reliefs?
This is the company from Moscow called Domostroy, which works in parallel with us, deals with reliefs, cornices.
There are many artists working, and they all have a wealth of experience. Someone else painted the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow after its restoration, someone worked in St. Petersburg
They have wenty churches have been painted under their belt
What is depicted on the western side?
This is the “Kingdom of Glory” that will come after the second coming of Jesus Christ to earth. The prophecy says that after the Last Judgment will come 1000 years of serene life. Only the righteous will remain, and we see them in this composition — righteous people from ancient times to the present day surround and glorify Christ. The area of the composition amounted to no less than 86 square metres, its author — Vitaly Zhiganov. Only he is working on the composition, so the work is moving slower — it's been 4 months. The work is still in progress. There are still a lot of issues to be resolved.
How did you select artists to work in the temple?
Vitaly Zhiganov, in particular, is a member of the Union of Artists of Russia. He works in Moscow. There are many artists working, and they all have a wealth of experience. Someone else painted the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow after its restoration, someone worked in St. Petersburg. Artists of my studio paint many churches and cathedrals in the south of Russia, in Stavropol, Pyatigorsk. In total, our team has more than 20 large objects under its belt.
From the sketch to the finished mural — they way of six months
Do you have a “core” of artists?
There is a main team that travels around the cities. But here — a very large amount of work, so there are also invited masters. This is one of the largest temples, very majestic, voluminous. Highest level. In total, there are about 15 artists working here. Besides, our workshop makes the iconostasis facing with marble. Carvers, gilders, and casters also work on it — they have carved gilded decor. We write icons. All works on the iconostasis is carried out in Stavropol. Now it is covered with marble. I would like to say that we employ a variety of masters because the Pakhomov Workshop — a comprehensive approach to the decoration of the temple. The commissioning of the temple is scheduled for next May. In June and July, the church will be consecrated.
I would like to say that we employ a variety of masters because the Pakhomov Workshop — a comprehensive approach to the decoration of the temple. The commissioning of the temple is scheduled for next May. In June and July, the church will be consecrated
How much money does the painting of the temple alone cost?
I can't say, there are a lot of directions and everyone is responsible only for their own. All questions to the customer.
When did the painting work start?
Last December. We started collecting information and sketching, and for more than six months we had worked only on the concept of what would be located and where. Only after approval, they “went out” on the walls and started working. This was in June. We have already finished some of them, and we are still working on some of them, so we are working on them.
Putting mosaic together into a single picture
I see that opposite the “Carrying the Ark”, there is the painting “The Entrance of the Lord to Jerusalem”. Who is its author?
Yevgeny Kravtsov and Alexander Akopov performed a counter composition on the southern lunette. It is also almost finished, there are only nuances that will be corrected when all the work on the painting of the temple is almost finished. In order to bring everything together, we can add colours somewhere, for example, details. A separate author works on each composition, but in the end everything should look like a single whole, a whole composition.
In addition to large paintings, there are also small images. What will be around the “Entrance to Jerusalem”?
These are small lunettes — this is the name of all semicircular images, there are only eight of them. On one side, we see “The Transfiguration of the Lord”, Dmitry Shvetsov is working on it, on the other side, there will be “The Descent of the Holy Spirit”.
What is your personal contribution to the work on the temple?
We have been engaged in temple painting for more than 25 years. Now I am creating icons for the iconostasis of the cathedral. On the murals here, I fully developed the entire concept, the entire project. After all, we first created a 3D model, inserted ornaments, drawings and sketches of which I also made. I set the colour scheme in which everything will be solved, and I'm working on this project with artists to make it all come together in a single complex. This is my task.
After all, we first created a 3D model, inserted ornaments, drawings and sketches of which I also made. I set the colour scheme in which everything will be solved, and I'm working on this project with artists to make it all come together in a single complex. This is my task
“It hurt that the Orthodox Church was repaired by the Turks”
Why did you choose this particular direction — temple painting?
I did not. It chose me. Once in Stavropol, I saw that Turks were working in the cathedral. I was offended by this, I went to the priest and said: “Are there no Orthodox masters?" I was told that they had not chosen, they needed repairs. But the priest asked: “What can you offer?" I replied that there were artists who were ready to paint the temple. That's how we came in handy. Our first work was St. Andrew's Church in Stavropol, then the city built a large Kazan Cathedral. From there, we were taken to the next temple, and the third, and the fourth. This is how it became our main activity.
Is there a shortage of temple painting masters in Russia?
Yes, there are not enough highly qualified specialists.
By the way, about masters and Orthodox masters in particular. Recently in the summer, a new cathedral was opened and consecrated — the temple of the Russian Armed Forces, which was designed by Dashi Namdakov, known for his pagan sculptures. How would you assess the design of this temple?
I will leave the question without comment. This is my personal opinion, which I will keep to myself. There are art history groups for evaluation.
But here — a very large amount of work, so there are also invited masters. This is one of the largest temples, very majestic, voluminous
200 years warranty
What is being done to ensure that the frescoes you created are preserved as long as possible?
Before applying paintings to the walls, we specially prepare the surface. We use the technology of the old masters used 300-400 years ago. We glued the walls completely with fabric.
Are the paints special, too?
For 600 years, the composition of oil paints for academic painting has not changed much. To avoid delamination of paints, we also use special technology — putty, carpenter's hide glue, which was done by our forefathers. After the painting is completed, the compositions are covered with special protective compositions.
How long will they live without restoration?
At least 200 years without restoration, but in the planned cleaning will need about 40-50 years, because the soot from candles in any case falls on the surface. But we expect 5-6 centuries of the life of our paintings.
To avoid delamination of paints, we also use special technology — putty, carpenter's hide glue, which was done by our forefathers
Uniqueness in the skill
Did you manage to avoid overlaps and surprises in your work?
There are different situations. There were no surprises for us, we stick to to plan. The work, we can say, is unique, such a level of work is now very rare in Russia, because most churches make copies of already famous masters. We have only original works created with the account of the preserved evidence of the pre-revolutionary period of the сhurch. The level of the masters is also important. We employ only the best craftsmen. The selection was very tough.
Do masters live permanently in Kazan?
Yes, we rent them working apartments. They, like everyone else, have two days off a week. It doesn't have to be Saturday or Sunday. Artists are creative people, sometimes you can rest during the week, and work on weekends. The masters of icon painting also work in Moscow and St. Petersburg, so I always travel between cities. The main thing is that they are working on a schedule, tight, hard. It is also important for them to express themselves and show what they are capable of.
How much do temple artists make today?
I can't tell.
The work here is really very difficult in physical terms. But even this was not the reason for the lack of female artists, but rather the level of skill. Here — only the best of the best
You won't find women in the forests of Kazan
I see that artists work on the scaffolding at a great height, and under the dome, bent over. Are there any women on your team?
Yes, but not on this site. The work here is really very difficult in physical terms. But even this was not the reason for the lack of female artists, but rather the level of skill. Here — only the best of the best In general, in Russia, yes, there are not only masters in icon painting, but also excellent artists who are engaged in temple painting. The only prohibition is that women can't work in the altar.
How did you become an artist? Does your family support you?
I was born in Tbilisi, where I got my academic education. My father is an artist. We once had to move to Stavropol, where I started my business. The eldest son has retired from painting, and the youngest is still a schoolboy. Yes, he is interested in what I do, and during the school holidays he came to Kazan to visit me. My wife also lives here, and she always remains my muse and inspiration.