Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Macau artist shows his flair at the Venice Biennial

Posted by Kimberly on June 14, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
June 14, 2007, page 2 (644 words)

Images supplied by Macao Museum of Art

Macau had the highest honour of including two local artists in this year’s Venice Biennale’s 52nd International Art Exhibition, to be held from June 10 until November 21 in Venice, Italy.
One of the artists chosen was Konstantin Bessmertny, who moved to Asia from Russia in 1993 and has called Macau home ever since.
His work, titled ‘ Si monumentum requiris, circumspice’, was chosen with the theme ‘Place’, meant to define not only the physical location of Macau but also a place of imagination and memories. The explanation and meaning of the term was expected to differ according to personal experiences.
The Macau Museum of Art received 42 entries created by 34 artists or teams, of which Mr Bessmertny said, “I had an equal chance competing with the other 40 participants.”
When questioned about his response to being included in the Biennale, Mr Bessmertny, speaking from Venice, said “Of course it’s a big honour for me. And of course a pleasant surprise.”
“It was a requirement that we apply already with an idea, a big job,” he said.
With his work usually being in the form of paintings, Mr Bessmertny said, “Of course I would have loved to have done a painting but I could not have done something of this scale and so I gave this proposal. I had no other choice,” adding that the assemblage of the work took more than five days, “taking them out from their boxes and putting them together.”
To describe his piece of art would be difficult as it is a mix of scrap iron, mechanical parts and an assortment of recycled material. The exterior is covered in words across the Latin, Chinese English and Portuguese languages, “pointing to the beauty of the world surrounding you and at the same time, advising that we be careful with this, for example, ‘why see other places if this place here is beautiful?’” said Mr Bessmertny.
The two doors open to reveal an interior that invites viewers in, reflecting a society that would revel in outrageous wallpaper showcasing Venetian paintings and Nam Van in Macau. A giant crystal is suspended down the centre, occupying the entire space.
“I like the comfort of inside and outside. It’s a more philosophical approach. Beautiful and ugly. Fake and real. So from all these contradictions I tried to make a contrast outside and inside. With the same time I’m using a kind of recycle message,” Mr Bessmertny said.
For many artists, the Biennale could be seen as a culmination of a lifetime’s achievement of work. Not so with Mr Bessmertny. “No, I think there are sort of stages. There are peaks like for example being chosen for the Oscars for actors but like in a way its a progress.
“I see it like it’s my job. Of course I’m glad that somebody noticed but my job is painting so I don’t look at it like ‘I have to do that’ and perceive it as kind of final destination. It’s to be continued,” he said.
His style is indefinable, his approach general, “towards my work and art itself. I try to see it in a kind of positive, absolute kind of way. Because all situations in life can be explained in absolute terms.
“This way of seeing the world and to give hope to viewers, not to put political issues but to analyse it with a more philosophical approach,” is how he would describe his art.
The title of his work is a popular Latin phrase, taken from the tombstone of Sir Christopher Wren.
Meaning ‘if you seek his monument, look around you’ it refers to St. Paul’s cathedral as Wren’s monument, with Mr Bessmertny hoping viewers will see his work as a monument of his ability.
Konstantin Bessmertny’s work ‘Edictus Ridiculum’ is currently being exhibited at the Macau Museum of Art until October 7.

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