Contemporary Byzantine Painting

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The term “Contemporary Byzantine Painting” was conceived by Fikos and is used conventionally. Its meaning is embodied in the painting that originates in the Byzantine tradition and in combination with contemporary painting movements offers a new painting style in our time.

When we hear of Byzantine painting a specific painting style comes to mind; that which was expressed during the post-iconoclast period. This occurs because the neccesities led this art to develop a very specific style (architectural forms, lighting in churches, reference to the viewer, materials, technique etc.). All the same, none of these prevented it from developing stylistically (preserving, however its essence incorrupt) until the 18th century. It was then that it gradually started to transform into Nazarene art, which would prevail in the Greek ecclesiastical sphere for the next 150 years approximately.

The “renaissance” of Byzantine painting began in Greece with Photios Kontoglou (1895-1965). Kontoglou is the exceptional example of a painter of this art, not just because he was the first to present a complete and mature proposal for the non-religious version of Byzantine Painting, but also because he practically proved the breadth of the spectrum of possibilities of this form of painting in regard to the stylistic variety that it can provide. More explicitly, he proved that a person who lived in the 20th century, who has studied the Paris of modernism, paints by the light of an electric lamp on canvas and used uses acrylic paints cannot possibly paint in the same way as a painter who lives in the 13th century and has never left the boundaries of Byzantium and has never seen a photograph, consequently the art of another culture, paints with natural or candle light, always on wet plaster and specific architectural forms of orthodox churches.

The truth is that today, in the field of iconography, the practice of copying old prototypes prevails on an international scale. This certainly isn’t due to the limited possibilities of Byzantine art, as some mistakenly claim, but first and foremost due to erroneous “conspiracy theories” that prevail in the field and secondly to ignorance. Despite this, there are a few individuals, especially in the Balkan region, who are creating works based of the Byzantine tradition with a spirit of renewal.
Thus we see that Byzantine painting isn’t a closed painting system with inviolable canons and limits on the artist’s freedom, but on the contrary, it is an open system, which, having as a solid core reference to the viewer, forms its shell, in other words its painting style according to the period and its needs.

Thus, in a world where art is suffering from the sickness or “originalism” and of “self-expression”, Byzantine painting may constitute an exceptionally functional universal painting language, able to accept painting idioms and dialects, and consequently offering freedom of expression to the artist and understandability to the viewers.