Artist Konstantin Bessmertny has a reputation for being one of the best European artists living in Asia.
Is he that good? Actually, we think he’s better than that. We think he’s one of the best living artists, period.
We first met Bessmertny through our friends at KEE Club, a private members club in Hong Kong. KEE is our home away from home. You can find us spending a lot of time in the club’s “Green Room,” where two of Bessmertny’s paintings hang.
We’ve had time to study those paintings – and understand why the club loves to unveil his new pieces.
In every one of Bessmertny’s paintings we see Bosch-like figures taken out of despair and put into whimsical, surreal, and sexy environments.
We see humor, skin, and a little rebellion.
As you’ll see below, Bessmertny’s work is fresh, fun and confident and leaves you feeling better and wanting more.
You can’t ask anything more from an artist… then again… we do have a few questions for him. Without further ado…
The NewsWhistle Q&A with Artist Konstantin Bessmertny
Name: Konstantin Bessmertny
Date of Interview: March 2014
Age (if you want to give it up): 49
Birthplace: Blagoveshchensk USSR
Current town: Macau
1. What’s the funniest or saddest thing that’s happened to you this week?
One of my distant relatives spent 10 years in a Gulag for saying some political anecdote about Stalin. I was trying to find out what exactly it was. For years, no one wanted to tell me, but I think I figured it out:
It has to be during the Yalta Conference. Winston Churchill after taking his bath opened the wrong door and entered naked into a room with Stalin. Suddenly, another door opened and Roosevelt entered, finding the naked British PM in front of an embarrassed and red-faced Iosif Vissarionovich. Churchill then pointed at his privates and said to Roosevelt: “You see Mr. President; I have nothing to hide from the Premier of the Soviet Union.”
2. What’s your favorite movie? And why?
I love art house movies. I don’t like it when anything in art is done just to make money; it should be done to make something good.
My favorite movies are Fellini’s 8½ and La Dolce Vita, which most people think is about glamour but contains deeper meaning. The movie is long. I don’t think people watch the whole film.
3. What’s the biggest risk you took in life?
Choosing art as a profession.
4. If you could go back in time and do one thing over, what would that be?
Not to vote for Boris Yeltsin. I think most of the trouble that Russia has now was created during his reign, after he won the elections.
5. Tell us your favorite joke:
Again, it’s in the time of the Soviet Union. Brezhnev and Reagan exchanged their secretaries. After a while, each assistant writes a letter back home.
Reagan’s former assistant writes: “Dear Mr. President, can you please take me back? It’s so bad in the USSR. They don’t let me get manicures or pedicures. I can’t wear makeup or a strapless dresses. And they’re always telling me to wear skirts that are longer and longer.”
At the same time, Brezhnev’s former assistant writes: “Dear General Secretary, it’s so bad in the USA. They’re always asking me to wear make-up, lipstick and strapless dresses. And they want my skirt to be shorter and shorter all the time. Can you please take me back? Soon, my gun and balls will be visible.”
6. What’s something that most people don’t know about you?
I have a license to drive a tank. As a young man, I was in the military and we had to learn how to do it.
Just to let everyone know I’m a supporter of Anarcho-Pacifism, a movement that calls for peace, love, and no corrupt governments.
7. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever heard?
I better tell you the worst piece of advice. It was from an art curator during a time when abstract was not yet regarded as “decorative art.” The advice: “Your drawing and painting skills are too good. Did you try with your left hand?”
8. Who’s your favorite celebrity? And why?
We are living in what I call the “Times of Great Ignorance,” where celebrities outshine the great thinkers and creators who can make a difference. I’m just like everyone else. I think it’s nice to see beautiful people on a red carpet, but to be beautiful is not enough. Most of people that I admire are not celebrities.
9. What’s your strangest phobia or superstition?
If I have to go back into the house after forgetting something, I must look in the mirror.
10. Last, but not least, is there anything you want to pitch, promote or discuss?
All conflicts are the result of bigger unresolved problems. We all have to focus on overpopulation, pollution, and look for alternatives to “constant economic growth.”
11. Oh, and a bonus curve question or two…
a. How did you get your start as an artist? Would you recommend art as a career? What series or themes are you currently exploring in your work?
I still remember when I first took plasticine and did a horse sculpture. I was 5. After that, I was always busy drawing, painting, sculpting, and gaining a reputation as an artist.
To be an artist sounds glamorous now. But, please, it’s a nightmare to deal with “art bureaucrats, keepers of institutionalized art doctrines, the art mafia, crooked curators and art dealers, lousy gallerists, ignorant art educators, clueless art journalists, swindled collectors, gluttonous art investors, as well as disingenuous and trendy con artists.”
Currently, I’m working on a few projects in different media at the same time. The series of oil on canvas paintings that I’m working on is “E. meets W.” It’s about how we all are getting it wrong where east meets west.
b. Who are your influences? Who are five current artists that are worth following?
Again, the art world is in confusion now and everything that is on the surface is “politically correct” or trendy.
I’m not conservative, but my inspiration is more than a century old. I think we “ran too fast” in the 20th century and lost a lot on the way.
c. As our readers are throughout the world and like traveling, they probably will want to know about Macau. Very briefly, what brought you there? What are some of your favorite spots/restaurants/sites?
When I finished my Masters of Fine Art degree in 1992 I was already involved in some projects. A few of them were in Macau and Hong Kong. I had to be there for one year and started the studio. Still, after all these years, I can’t find a better location.
I love old Macau! My favorite spot in Macau is my studio, where I spend as much time as I can. My favorite restaurant is in my house, as my wonderful wife is a great cook.
If you don’t mind spending some money, I would recommend The Tasting Room. Cheaper alternatives are Fernando’s and A Petisqueira.
d. How did you get involved with KEE Club? What are your other favorite nightclubs/bars?
Christian and Maria Rhomberg bought some of my works for the club interior when they were just starting it. Since then, we’ve become good friends and I frequent the club as an overseas member. That’s it; KEE is maximum… what you need in HK to feel welcomed.
5. We’re big fans of James Bond. We think you might be, too. What are your favorite Bond movies and/or moments? And what makes the fictional superspy so interesting to you? Also, how bad was Skyfall in its representation of Macau?
Jaws from The Spy who Loved Me is my favorite character from all Bondiana, apart from Sean Connery. My favorite part, like the movie in general, is the “kulturny in the afternoon” phrase from From Russia with Love.
I’m not here to criticize the recent James Bonds, but the real one still is Sean Connery. I also don’t understand why older Bonds were not given the chance to continue on with their roles despite their age. A superspy has to be funny and imperfect, or else you risk either scaring the audience or drumming up unnecessary conflict.
I would love all of the Cotai Strip in Macau to be like Skyfall. It would be so much better than a plastic Venice and Paris, both are “Hello Kitty for adults.”
Lead-In Image, Battle of Vegas Macau, Courtesy of Konstantin Bessmertny