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Sotiris Panailidis

Critical note on religious painter Sotirios D. Panailidis,
by Archimandrite Efthymios,
Father Superior of the Holy Monastery of Pantokrator
in Mount Athos

The artist Sotirios Panailidis was born in Katerini, where he finished his school studies. He continued in Thessaloniki as top student of the Prefecture, studying Graphic Design and Decoration and then enrolled in the School of Geology. A restless spirit with an early developed passion for all kinds of art and Byzantine art in particular, he relinquished everything and left for Mount Athos, at the holy cell of Bourazeri (St. Nicholas), the sole desire in his heart and mind being to perfect his skills in Byzantine religious painting.

I, father Efthymios Prepis, Father Superior of the Holy Monastery of Pantocrator in Mount Athos for fifty years and closely acquainted with his father, my spiritual progeny and currently a priest, Dimitrios Panailidis, met the young artist on his visits to the monastery, when we had long discussions about religious painting and the original works of Panselinos in our church. His fervour to learn led to an apprenticeship under father Arsenios Bourazeritis, an exquisite religious painter whose works are renowned internationally.

Upon finishing and becoming accomplished in his art, Mr. S. Panailidis was commissioned by myself to decorate the chapel of Panaghia Gerontissa, and then I was able to see with my own eyes what his teacher had told me: the man’s artistic talent.

The uniquely mixed colours which result in tones of unprecedented variety —a feast for the eyes of the body and the soul alike— his original compositions, balanced and atmospheric, and the harmony of the whole transport me daily into realms of divine exaltation and spiritual meditation; an example of technically and theologically perfect art which all artists strive for but very few can achieve today. The facial expressions —mild but penetrating, serene, imposing and manful— are rarely seen in today’s churches.

Variety of forms, pluralism of expressions rather than the sterile repetition of vacant faces we are sternly forced to see these days as a result of our own (the clergy’s) lack of artistic knowledge, but also because of the visual and spiritual paucity of the artists.

All this wealth of images, design, colour and expression, uniquely atmospheric as well as theologically sound, exudes a spiritual elation. The inimitable faces of his holy figures, products of the spiritual toil and artistic labour of Mr. Sotirios Panailidis, emanate a mystical quality visible to all, lay Christians and art connoisseurs alike, as a result of their creator’s strong character and artistic inquisitiveness. Sotiris is no copier of icons. He ponders the psalms and sayings by the Holy Fathers of our Church and thus triggers his Orthodox-cultivated and filtered imagination; the fruit of this laborious and so rare process is “artistic birth”, i.e. composition and creation. He begets and produces. His mind goes beyond the trivial and the mundane; he lives his art, penetrates the secret world of light and colour as well as that of Orthodox theology, seeking something new, higher and nobler. He does not copy — he remoulds and creates.

I congratulate the artist Sotirios Panailidis, and wish for him every day to have the courage and power to continue on the difficult path he has chosen in a time of economic affluence but spiritual and artistic barrenness.

I wish him to continue to climb to the greatest heights of his art, to glorify not himself but the One who gave him this gift, which, as a humble servant, he must augment and pay back.

With the blessing of OUR LORD and the HOLY MOTHER OF GOD as well as of me the humble minister of the holy sanctuary.