3 May – 3 June, 2012 | AMELIA JOHNSON CONTEMPORARY
6-10 SHIN HING STREET, NOHO, HONG KONG | www.ajc-art.com
Amelia Johnson Contemporary announces Konstantin Bessmertny: BESTIARIUM, a powerful exhibition
of small paintings and three-dimensional work. Bessmertny’s latest exhibition takes its name from a
compendium of beasts that was particularly popular in England and France around the 12th
century. The illustrated volumes described various animals, birds and even fantastical creatures.
Here Konstantin Bessmertny presents his own Bestiarium: a collection of 20 small oil paintings under
the collective series title “Portraits of the Rich and Famous” and a powerful three-dimensional work.
These small, intimate portraits of politicians, philosophers, world
leaders, film stars, who are recognizable and famous, are presented in
monochrome and colour, perhaps exploring an unique, mundane
aspect of their lives or a character trait that the person is not known
for. In objectifying his subject matter, the artist is asking his audience
to look at these personalities in a new light, perhaps to empathise with
them, perhaps to ridicule them, but also to question and possibly
rethink every preconceived notion that has previously been
synonymous with this person’s fame. So here we have “Napoleon on
Elba’ – rosy cheeked, enormously fat and healthy – a reference to the
amazing living he experienced whilst in captivity. Here we have a
Richter-esque Marilyn figure – ghostly and taking the stage in front of
In contrast to the small oils is the artist’s titular work
“Bestiarium”, a life size lion, Asian-esque, carved from wood
and painted over with scenes and tracts of text from
mediaeval life. Here Bessmertny depicts an imagined world
populated with fantastical creatures and mythological
people, moral stories and anecdotes for a twenty first century
audience. This parallel universe that the artist creates is made
all the more powerful by the juxtaposition of these simplistic,
painterly oils with this giant lion, whose carved features terrify
and mesmerize yet who draws the audience further into this
parallel world to uncover the hidden messages contained
within these works.
Bessmertny is a creature of boundaries between times, cultures
and places. The effect is not lost on his works, which gleefully
portray challenges of basic, almost universally accepted
understandings of zeitgeist, history, and its heroes. Through his
work Konstantin Bessmertny affords the viewer a delicious
glimpse into a world that could so nearly exist and
demonstrates, yet again, why he is one of the most exciting
artists working in Asia today.
The title for this series of works was taken from the ancient, illustrated, medieval
accounts describing creatures of another world where men existed as superior
beings. Only a fraction of the terrestrial and marine life we know and recognize today
had been discovered by the Middle Ages and I continue to question whether we
have full knowledge of these animals even today.
We can describe the world around us in detail because of its proximity. Elements of
the world that exist beyond our reach can only be discovered if we free our
imaginations from any limitation. Though we often fail to recognize things in our
contemporary times, “Bestiarium” is an attempt to re-construct something that we
have missed within the known world and imagine something additional in the
At the center of the exhibition is a large wooden sculpture of a lion covered with
graffiti-like images and quotes, mainly referencing something absurd in nature,
covering all possible spheres of human interest and activity, clashing high and low,
scholastic and popular cultures.
This series of small portraits in various mediums has the working title, “Rich & Famous”
and is a descriptive account of well-known individuals and aspects of their lives and
personalities we often fail to recognize.
Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum- I doubt, therefore I think I am.
(Attributed to Rene Descartes)
ABOUT KONSTANTIN BESSMERTNY
Born in Blagoveshchensk, Russia, across the Amur River from Heihe, China, Bessmertny has spent the
last seventeen years living in Macau’s Special Administrative Region. During that time he has risen to
become one of its foremost artistic ambassadors, having represented the enclave in its premier
pavilion in the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. His works are held in collections that include the
Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Macau, and the
Standard Chartered Bank of Hong Kong; and have been exhibited in Museums that include the
Museum of Contemporary Art, Fukuoka, Japan; the Museum of Art, Macau; and the Museum of
Contemporary Arts, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
ABOUT AMELIA JOHNSON CONTEMPORARY
Founded in 2005 by Amelia Johnson, Amelia Johnson Contemporary has built up an enviable
reputation for presenting carefully curated exhibitions. The gallery is dedicated to exhibiting
groundbreaking international contemporary art in Hong Kong and to promoting young Hong
Kong artists through spotlight exhibitions both in Hong Kong and overseas. The gallery has grown
to such an extent that Gallery 2 of Amelia Johnson Contemporary was established at the start of
2011. Based in an old potter’s studio across the street from the main gallery space, Gallery 2 is an
exciting new venue for showcasing site-specific installations and large scale single works. The
gallery has participated in many international art fairs, including CIGE (Beijing), Arco (Madrid),
ShContemporary (Shanghai), The Asian Art Fair (New York) Pulse (Miami) and ART HK (Hong Kong).
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, IMAGES, OR TO REQUEST AN INTERVIEW, PLEASE CONTACT:
| T: +852 2548 2286 | E: [email protected]