Painting resumes at Greek church

DOWNEY - Work on the interior of St. George Greek Orthodox Church, which ministers to some 200-250 regular Greek family congregants in the Greater Downey area, resumed early last month.When Athens painters Spiro Tsilikaras and his wife Katerina Vlachou return home to Greece next week, they will have completed Stage III of their painting project. They began working on the first phase of the church's interior beautification program in the summer of 2006. Harold Tseklenis, a valued Downey Greek community resource person and very much a Byzantine historian, helped explain what has been accomplished so far. Stage I's main accomplishment four years ago, he said, was the large painting of the Virgin Mary overlooking the altar (containing the Blessed Sacrament) with her arms opened wide in welcome ("Platitera"). Stage II consisted mainly of painting icons on the walls. Stage III (this summer) involved the painting of the Anunciation, of the apostles, and the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The way Tsilikaras, a 1977 graduate of the Ruskin School of Drawing & Fine Arts at Oxford University, does it is he paints the icons on panels in Athens, has them shipped over here, glues them onto the walls, and paints the background and other finishing touches. It is a technique shared by his wife, who simultaneously puts in her detailed renderings in another section of the church interior. Theirs is of the Macedonian school of painting, he once said, which is characterized by a lighter, more expressive stylization than the austere, darker Cretan style (the Ionian style was adopted by Renaissance painters). The interior beautification program is proceeding slowly but surely, "as funds permit," in Tseklenis' words. The Very Rev. Archimandrite John E. Constantine, pastor of St. George, foresaw this. He said sometime back, referring to the many still unpainted, white blank spaces of his church, "Filling them with icons could conceivably be a task for the next generation." Still, in a special service next April, said Tseklenis, following Greek Orthodox tradition, St. George will be consecrated. This will include, he said, the "anointment of the Holy Altar and the church building. The church will be a little more presentable by then." The church holds its annual Greek festival in the first weekend of June.

********** Published: August 7, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 16