Amorgos 1991 - The Church Mural Painter on Amorgos

Amorgos 1991 - The Church Mural Painter on Amorgos

In 1991 we climbed over the ridge of Mavrovouno to Arkesini, where we turned into the taverna for a drink. Why do my trips to Greece read like a pub crawl? It is the heat that makes me thirsty, honest! I am not really an alcoholic. At the taverna, we chatted to a chap who turned out to be a travelling church mural painter, who offered to show us his work in Arkesini church. We eagerly took up his offer. He spent the summer months as an itinerant church painter, and in the winter painted icons in Athens. We found the church full of scaffolding, and the artist hard at work. We were surrounded by paintings of saints, martyrs, and angels in various stages of completion. He worked amazingly quickly, sketching in the basic design on the wall in black crayon, then filling in the background (mostly in dark blue), then the basic colour of the robes, the highlights and finally small details such as faces, hands and flags. He applied the paint in bold strokes; I got the impression that he did not pause to contemplate what he was doing, and had painted similar figures many times before. After all, a saint is a saint is a saint. The paintings were commissioned by parishioners, who pay for the paintings according to their size. I took some photographs of the icons, and showed them to an expert who said they were good paintings in the style of thirteenth or fourteenth century Byzantine work.