Art and Faith

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Valery Balabanov. Shooting Gallery. no date (1980s)

valery-balabanov-shooting-gallery-1991.jpg

Shooting Gallery

Valery Balabanov

1980s

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In the words of A Prayer for Russia:

On the heels of his painting about the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Valery Balabanov created a cycle of artworks united under the title Prayer for the Romanovs, about the Imperial family executed in 1918 by the Bolsheviks. One of the paintings of the cycle is Shooting Gallery, which is most symbolic, for at the time, a rampant campaign against religion targeted the Imperial family, and all of Orthodox Russia. “I regard the execution of the Imperial family as a tremendous sin, one that all of us bear responsibility for, just as our descendants shall as well”, Balabanov said. This is why he depicted the Emperor Nikolai II and his family as Saints, long before they were, indeed, canonised by the Moscow Patriarchate just before the millennium.

Reflect on the fact that this painting was executed during the Soviet times! Mr Balabanov took great risks in painting such a work. Quite probably, he conceived the idea for this project after hearing of the canonisation of the New Martyrs in New York in the early 1980s by the ROCOR. Therefore, the OCA fairy tales attacking the action of the glorification of the martyrs can be seen in their proper light. You see, there was a positive reaction in Russia itself, and, no doubt, sympathetic churchmen in Russia used their influence to protect Mr Balabanov from official reprisal by the atheist authorities. On the other hand, there were Church circles in the West who were immune from repression who used their freedom to attack their co-religionists. Something to think about…

To paint such a work and even to defend one who did so at such a time was very courageous, indeed! Mr Balabanov and his defenders faced the very real possibility of the gulag, and they knew it! Their OCA detractors didn’t, and that makes their actions reprehensible and beyond the pale. Reflect on the fact that some of those involved in a current church crisis were amongst those who attacked these brave people in the homeland. It should give you an indication of where to go… and it isn’t Syosset or Crestwood (don’t listen to the siren songs of Antioch or Istanbul either)!

BMD

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