Richard Davies – Wooden Churches
“(…) Seeing these beautiful postcards inspired Richard to travel to the Russian North in 2002 to find out which churches had survived. Further trips have followed every year. Many churches have been lost: some have been left to rot; some have been destroyed by lightning; countless others by ignorance, spite and neglect. Last year, one church was hit by a reversing tractor – it tumbled like a house of cards.
There is however much to celebrate. The integrity between the landscape and the architecture of this wooden world is as striking to us today as it was to Bilibin. The basic simplicity of the log cabin construction and the extravagant fantasies superimposed on it are just as startling. Although the churches that remain are in varying states of decay and despite their neglect and the wrecking of their interiors, these extraordinary structures have a spiritual presence which commands respect even in the absence of their gilded icons.
Many churches have been saved by dedicated specialists and enthusiasts, whose untiring work goes on. We hope that the photographs in this exhibition will help raise public awareness of the plight of these wonderful buildings and that more restoration projects will attract the funding they deserve.
During our travels, the story of the hardships of the last century has been unavoidably felt – a story of Revolution, War, Communism and severe Northern winters. The photographs also tell of the lives of resilient people who have lived through extreme times in extreme places – a story of the Russian North.
Matilda Moreton, Richard Davies
London August 2007