From Dr Per Beskow, Th.D., M.A., University of Lund, Sweden.
History of Religions and Church History.
Re: Lars Gerdmar, Ansikte mot ansikte: Om de heliga ikonerna. Sekel Bokförlag 2007.
(Face to Face: on the Holy Icons)
LARS GERDMAR is regarded by his contemporaries as one of the foremost among the Scandinavian icon painters. He has been active for the past thirty years with assignments from private clients as well as commissions for various churches which have included among other things several large altar triptychs.
Lars Gerdmar started his education and training under the guidance of a Swedish icon painter. In 1981 he was accepted as a private pupil by Leonid Ouspensky in Paris. However Ouspensky´s failing eye sight meant that Lars Gerdmar had to change his plans and his international training began under the guidance of Helena Nikkanen, Chief Curator at the Centre for the Restoral of Icons at the NewValamo Monastery in Finland, herself a one-time pupil of Ouspensky.
There are currently many painters who paint in the Byzantine style, but Lars Gerdmar stands apart. For he has not only captured and adopted the language and symbolism of the form and colour inherent in this tradition but he has even imbibed the theological and spiritual content of the Byzantine tradition.
Face to Face: on the Holy Icons is a unique production not only within the Swedish literary context but even within an international context where it deserves to be presented.
Gerdmar conveys a message to the reader where his own insights into the history of art and the spiritual content of the icons is made available for those wishing to delve into the mystery of the world of icons. He combines his own artistic empathy with expert knowledge and acts as an intermediary between the beholder and the liturgical and theological context of the icons.
The Swedish Research Council, a government body which scrutinizes all scientific research in Sweden, rewarded Lars Gerdmar with a maximum publication grant for his work with this book.
Lars Gerdmar begins his work with a thorough and explicit presentation of the emergence of icon painting during the first centuries AD, and the further development of the Byzantine icon tradition from the fourth century onwards to the present day. Murals, egg tempera painting on wooden panels, book illuminations and mosaics are all dealt with expertise.
The author continues by teaching the reader the language of icons, their form, their symbolic realism, their way of expressing theology in a world of pictures and the place of those pictures in the liturgy.
Gerdmar’s strength lies in the reverence he shows for the core material he deals with. A Roman Catholic himself, Gerdmar is well versed in Orthodox theology and his approach to icon painting is in full concordance with Orthodox spirituality.
As a true master, Lars Gerdmar proceeds with a pedagogical presentation drawn from his own personal experiences of the creative process of the art of painting. He illustrates his teaching with examples of his own work. For the initiated beholder it is apparent that Gerdmar is a true representative of the classical Russian-Byzantine tradition. But more than that he has developed his own style and colour scale that in some respects takes inspiration from and touchs upon the maniera Greca tradition of early Italian painting. It is this combination of the traditional and personal that creates the strength and magnetism of his icons.
The final chapter is devoted to a series of meditations upon the themes of some of Lars Gerdmar’s own icons:
Saint John the Theologian – a portrait of the Apostle of love
The Annunciation – the Birth of God in the Human Person
The Mother of God of the Sign – Mariology and the Cosmic Christ
The Baptism of Christ – the Human Person and the Holy Trinity
The Transfiguration – the Encounter of the Uncreated with the Creature