Kings Road Gallery (III)

The dramatis personae who strut across Konstantin's stage constitute a colourful medley of characters: gamblers, the décolleté women of the demi-monde, dictators, Banana Republic generals, cowboys, bourgeois, Mafiosi cigar-smokers, angels in the form of paunchy middle-aged men in saggy underpants and wings, sinister men in suits, naked capitalists, liegemen in 18th century court dress, Zorro, Lenin, Marat - and of course the usual kinky habitués of Konstantin's work - the cross-dressers and hookers in fishnet tight and stilettos.

Konstantin lives in Macau, the oldest European colony in China, administered by the Portuguese until 1999 and now part of China, famous today for its nightclubs, gambling dens and casinos. The complex ethnic, social and linguistic mix of Macau has no doubt influenced Konstantin but one suspects that much also derives from his own quirky imagination.

Almost every work invites careful scrutiny. Even what at first seems like a straightforward portrait of a young man, standing beside a Louis XV armchair and a gaming table, proves, on closer inspection, to be more mysterious. It is, we are told twice, "a portrait of a young man in a middle of something" (sic). In the middle of what, we don't know. The painting abounds with abstruse symbols and obscure shapes: a rectangle with what looks like a sun and a volcano (which reappears elsewhere on the canvas), with the subtitle 'Casino Republic'; fragments of text, half-erased scribbling, scratchings, erasures, vague outlines. Amidst all this stands the young man, cool, detached, with clear eyes and a penetrating gaze. Could this be a symbolic portrait of the artist himself as a young man?

Thus Konstantin's work is witty and erudite, a colourful parade of folly, perversity and excess. One suspects a moral lesson there, but Konstantin withholds judgement and remains the inscrutable artist - as James Joyce said, once the artist has finished his work, he should sit back and pare his fingernails. It is up to the viewer to decipher the puzzles.

These are highly original, inventive and endlessly intriguing works, deftly painted but much looser in brushwork, more richly coloured and more complex compositionally than much of his previous work. There can be no doubt that they are, to use one of Konstantin's own titles, "paintings for people with an IQ well above normal".
by Terence Rodrigues - Art Historian, Critic & International Art Consultant


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