English Edition

As if Through a Childs Inner Eye: The Contemporary Icons of Maxim Sheshukov

Fr. Silouan Justiniano

Source: Orthodox Arts Journal

October 4, 2016

St. Prochoros the Deacon St. Prochoros the Deacon

The distinctively fresh and masterful work of Maxim Sheshukov, a contemporary iconographer working in Sviyazhsk (Kazan region of Russia), is another example of the best synthesis of creative interpretation and conformity to Tradition which we can find nowadays. His work was mentioned in passing in a previous article on Contemporary Iconographers of Russia, but I thought it would be important to highlight his work as exemplary of the diversity and flexibility possible within our ever-renewing and living Tradition.

The Martyrdom of St. Stephen the Archdeacon The Martyrdom of St. Stephen the Archdeacon

The more we look around, it becomes clear that the revival of icon painting has entered into a second stage. If the first could be described as the needful copyist stage, a studying “from without” to learn the grammar, after a long period of estrangement from the Tradition, today we find more iconographers producing works “from within,” daringly “thinking outside the box,” with their own poetic sentences to articulate. The internalization of the Tradition has become more evident in recent times. Copying has given way to authentic expression.

The Betrayal of Jesus The Betrayal of Jesus

Peter Weeping for His Denial Peter Weeping for His Denial

Christ Knocking at the Door Christ Knocking at the Door

Thus in Maxim Sheshukov’s poetic work we encounter unquestionable dexterity, compositional flexibility, gracefulness of line and subtlety of color. There is also a kind of minimalism in his treatment of the backgrounds. However, the simplicity of the background pictorially works more as an energized field, rather than mere absence. It is as if the void manifests the divine Presence. Overall there is an all-embracing sense of joy in his delicate use of pastels, warm and cool grays. At times we encounter a child-like whimsicality. It is as if we are seeing through the profound purity of a child’s inner eye. Even if the scene depicted is Judas Accepting the 30 Pieces of Silver; hope, mercy and serenity are not too far distant. Not only are the usual prototypes readily discerned, but also he depicts moments rarely treated in isolation, such as the Slaying of Abel, Judas Accepting the 30 Pieces of Silver just mentioned, Zacchaeus Climbing the Sycamore Tree, Peter Weeping for His Denial and Christ Knocking at the Door.

Cain Slaying Abel Cain Slaying Abel

Judas Accepting the 30 Pieces of Silver Judas Accepting the 30 Pieces of Silver

St. Zacchaeus Climing the Sycamore Tree St. Zacchaeus Climing the Sycamore Tree

The elongation of the figures and exaggeration of facial features could be taken by some as unnecessary cartoonish stylizations, but these are some of the elements in the work that communicate that sense of other-worldliness which is to be expected of an icon. Let us not forget, in a “cartoon,” or rather a “caricature,” we have the essential elements of the person depicted, their unique characteristics. Hence “caricature” is a form of abstracting or “drawing out” of those elements that best communicate the unseen truth of the subject. In short, the invisibly is made visible through abstraction. This is most often done to ridicule, as satire, yet it can also be done as a way of praise, that is, of glorifying a saint. This is exactly what we find in most abstract works of the Tradition and this is what Maxim Sheshukov’s work thrives on. Hence in the samples that will follow what can be seen as the influence of Modern art is in fact nothing other than what has been with us all along in the Tradition, for “there is nothing new under the sun.”

The Martyrdom of St. Ignatios the God-bearer The Martyrdom of St. Ignatios the God-bearer

St. Dismas St. Dismas

St. Onouphrios the Great and St. Macarios the Great St. Onouphrios the Great and St. Macarios the Great

St. Ephrosynos the Cook St. Ephrosynos the Cook

Holy Prince Peter and Holy Princess Fevronia Holy Prince Peter and Holy Princess Fevronia

St. Joachim and St. Anna St. Joachim and St. Anna

St. Seraphim of Sarov and St. Sergios of Radonezh St. Seraphim of Sarov and St. Sergios of Radonezh

St. Joseph the Bethrothed Asleep St. Joseph the Bethrothed Asleep

St. Gerasimos with Lion St. Gerasimos with Lion

The Sacrifice of Isaac The Sacrifice of Isaac

St. Christopher St. Christopher

St. Mary of Egypt and St. Zosimas St. Mary of Egypt and St. Zosimas

St. John the Baptist St. John the Baptist

Theotokos Hodegetria Theotokos Hodegetria

Theotokos Hodegetria Theotokos Hodegetria

St. John the Theologian With Scenes From His Life St. John the Theologian With Scenes From His Life

Christ Enthroned With Apostles Christ Enthroned With Apostles

Fr. Silouan Justiniano

Orthodox Arts Journal

06 / 10 / 2016

2016-10-23
18:07
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