Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Venice Biennale: Ukraine Pavilion Part 1 (San Stae)

Passing in a vaporetto by the Ukraine Pavilion in front of San Stae you could swear you were looking at a detail of a painting depicted on an outdated Jumbotron--that is, one of the massive video screens used in American sports stadiums. An experience that didn't exactly thrill me, until I got off the vaporetto and walked close enough to the three-sided piece by the artist Oksana Mas to discover that what I had taken for some kind of lo-fi electronic video screen was actually a vast wall of hand-painted wood eggs.

Each of the three sides of the pavilion at San Stae, as well as the Ukrainian pavilion near La Fenice, are details, in painted eggs, of the Van Eyck brothers' large Ghent altarpiece. Some of the eggs are covered in decorative motifs, many others with figures, symbols or brand names. According to one source I found online (http://www.fundgp.com/en/media/news/190/) different people were asked to paint their idea of sin on the eggs. One egg per person? I don't know. But I suppose that might explain some (but only some) of the images you may find in the more detailed pics below if you click on them and look closely enough. Though if this is the case I'm dismayed by how many people still seem to equate the nude female figure with "sin". Perhaps just wishful thinking on their part?

In any case, this would explain only partly who painted some of the eggs, and with what in mind. Another panel, the one which depicts a detail of Mary's face, is composed of eggs painted in floral motifs and has nothing to do with any notions of sin so far as I can tell. Botanists or gardeners or disciples of John Ruskin may correct me on this.

 There's more to find out about this, and no doubt more that could be written, but better to show you some images--and here is the artist's website: http://www.mas-art.com/home

Detail of Mary's mouth
Detail of the detail of the crown of the Ghent altarpiece

You can see images of the central part of Mas's massive work, as displayed in the Church of San Fantin, here:


  1. I'm hoping so hard that some of the good Biennale showings will still be open when I get there on November 19. I know a lot of the displays will have "folded their tents" before then.

  2. I don't know, but it seems that every time I look to see how long a pavilion or piece will be up I'm pleasantly surprised to see a 27 November end date. So I think, and hope, a lot will still be up when you get here.