Acclaimed by the community as “the most beautiful building” and “A Landmark” in the State Capital of South Carolina, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Columbia has formally Opened their Doors. This magnificent Orthodox building has a 50’ wide dome and many broad surfaces that we designed to fuse architecture with glorious iconography that reflects the values and traditions of the Faith.
Now that the Parish has completed the first phase of their Byzantine Iconography program, we can see how this manifests itself. The Parish hired the brilliant Dr. George Kordis, a professor of Iconography at the University of Athens who has mentored a new generation of very gifted iconographers. Dr Kordis, who teaches at the University of Athens and maintains his Studio there, received his Masters in Theology from Holy Cross in Brookline, MA.
Dr Kordis is a very gifted iconographer, artist and theologian who “dialogued and interacted” with the building to create Sacred Space which is of a very spectacular quality and dimension that further enhances and magnifies the Architecture.
Iconography is an important tradition in the Orthodox church that tells the story of the Faith. First using sketches in Charcoal on the walls to lay out the whole scheme, Dr. Kordis and his team of 4 assistants then came back in and began painting. Just a few months after the Thyranoixia / Opening of the Doors and 29 days after the start of work, just after the 4th of July, Kordis and his team have completed the following Byzantine Iconography:
-Dome, including the Pantokrator, Angelic Hosts, Prophets, Window decoration
-Dome Band featuring the Creation of the World
-Evangelists and Annunciation in the four Pendentive Zones
-The Platytera with the Communion of the Apostles in the Apse
Technique of eikonographia
He painted (or wrote) the icons using silicate paints which binds to the gypsum board and creates a strong bond with the substrate that lasts for 100’s of years. The liquid sodium silicate looses water and captures the carbon dioxide and creates silicate salts that bind the colors. This is very similar to the fresco painting technique where lime reacts with carbon dioxide and forms a marble-like layer that protects the colors. Another technique that is used include painting with Acrylic paints on Canvas which is later applied to the surfaces. Why would this matter and how does it relate to the speed of installation and the ultimate result of beautiful icons?
In the words of the artist,
“Acrylics (are) not easy to work with. So usually, this technique force(s) painters to work slower than other techniques (fresco, egg tempera, silicate colors). So that makes a big difference in time frame and, believe me, affects the quality of work. Wall painting is not portable icon. So, as in the past, the execution should be quickly enough in order for the artistic result to have freshness and freedom and to be part of the wall as much as possible. If you work with a technique that makes you go very slowly, that affects the character of the painting. We have information from the past that old icon painters work very fast. Really fast. And that happened because they knew how to work, they knew how to draw and how to handle aesthetic issues. They were masters in technical issues. For example, Theophanis the Cretan the great master of Cretan school of icon painting in 16th century had painted the church, the katholikon of Stavronikita Monastery in Mount Athos in 96 days!!! We know this from the contract published by Manolis Chadjidakis.. And of course the wall paintings are executed al secco with egg tempera and lime water. Many other iconographers used to paint 15-20 sq m per day working with fresco technique.”
The alternative used by Iconographers is the ancient technique of Marouflage where canvases are painted and then glued or nailed into place on the wall and painted out. According to Dr Kordis, it
“prevailed in Greece during the last 2 decades because it is convenient for iconographers who use video projectors to copy old prototypes. They work in their studios and use vinyl or acrylic colors for the rendering of the paintings. We have many evidences and proofs that this technique creates many problems due to the nature of acrylic colors and to humidity. The bonds among the molecules in acrylics are not strong and by over time they are destroyed. So in few years (20-30) the color is fading slowly and is destroyed.”
Beyond the incredible speed of execution (29 days) which allows for the fresh Lyrical and Poetic style, the work is a brilliant theological discussion that enhances the Sacred Space CJK Design created. The fusion of Orthodox architecture and iconography is historically rooted, yet creative and original with beautiful colors and graphic composition that Transforms those who witness it. The Saints speak to us, the scripture is revealed in new ways and we are connected to Heaven through the icons.
Please enjoy this YouTube link , a 9 min video telling the story of this work painted on the walls of the Church Temple from July 5th to August 12th 2011.
If you should have a chance for a visit to Columbia, you will find an incredible witness and “Lighthouse” to the Glory of God and the True Faith for the Ages of Ages… Please contact CJK Design if you would like to discuss this topic or any other Sacred Space issues for your Parish.