AN IDEAL HOUSE

Hélène Mariéthoz

Aleksander Konstantinov’s installation at Villa Bernasconi is a confluence of different sources of inspiration. It evokes the landscape-drawing classes that Konstantinov took during his academic years, as well as his meaningful encounter with the art of Giorgio Morandi, whose retrospective exhibition took place in Moscow in the 1970s – Konstantinov’s formative years. The landscape prints that Konstantinov saw there spoke all languages. Never following any fashion or model, Morandi spoke to everyone.

Under this dazzling impression, Konstantinov acquired a taste for engraving – for its simple lines, its essential features, and its quest for a language common to everybody. Since at the time the artist could not practice engraving – he lacked access to a printing press and the necessary tools – he started to imitate the technique in his drawings.

Like a chronicler, he restored all the minor details, lapses, and mistakes of printing techniques, and reproduced in his works, like Kafka in his texts, a daily routine of bureaucratic forms: coordinate paper, rulers, measuring tools. He traced by hand every contour, every spot – all the minuscule but necessary elements of an aesthetic that is indebted to the art of illuminated manuscript as much as to the mechanisms of contemporary printing.

«It is about finding a common denominator of the world that would reflect our notions of reality», explains Konstantinov. «It is all mathematics, even though my art depends more on people and on mechanisms made by people for measurements of the world than on mathematics». The artist is also a math professor; perhaps it is to his double education that he owes his inclination for the most simple and most essential in the structure of things. During the last two years, he has experimented with a very simple technique, using plastic sheets and colored tape. He has also attempted to change the scale of his work, moving to large panels and then to spatial constructions. Gradually Konstantinov moved from planes to objects, and then to landscapes, like a contemporary copyist of nature. This change led to the development of a method that incorporates an image done in a classic technique into contemporary time and space. «I refer to art history at its most fundamental», Konstantinov says. «Everyone knows Morandi’s etchings or Durer’s engravings perfectly well... and this installation at Villa Bernasconi, which looks like an engraving placed into a landscape, evokes familiar images from memory». Besides, the intrusion of symmetry, bright color, and artificial materials such as plastic into a natural framework is not without humor, marrying contradictions that are usually distinguishable only by analysis: natural and artificial, a virtual photomontage done in Photoshop and its realization in three dimensions.

 

It is coincidence that a project that Konstantinov had originally planned for an Italian locale was finally realized in a place called Villa Bernasconi. 
It is likewise merely chance that the villa’s environment – magnolia, orchard, vegetable garden, and an Italian gardener – resembles a Mediterranean landscape. But it is no coincidence that Konstantinov turns an old chicken coop and greenhouse into a model of an ideal house – provocatively humorous, sweet with the memories that it evokes, appealing to amateurs, professionals, and all visitors to the Lancy park.

Location: Lancy, Geneva, Switzerland.

Year: 2004 – 2005

VILLA BERNASKONI

a work created by invitation of Service culturel de Lancy during the artist’s residency at Villa Bernasconi.