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Friday Review » Art

Updated: February 23, 2012 19:54 IST

Lines that aren't about vandalism

Harshini Vakkalanka
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Poetry in two colours
Poetry in two colours

Hendrik Beikirch believes graffiti is a sign of life and not of aggression. The German artist plans to paint in Korea next

His monochromatic paintings of black fences, on canvas and plastic, are fascinating in the depth and poetry they carry with one colour, and a theme so specific. For artist ECB Hendrik Beikirch, whose murals and wall-art line galleries and public spaces around the world, it is more than just a fence. “Working in public spaces is about taking your personal freedom,” says Hendrik. “Sometimes you climb fences to reach your goal.”

His works are currently on display at “Achtung: Ashphaltkultur”, an exhibition of avant-garde German graffiti art at Max Mueller Bhavan.

Born in 1974, Hendrik created his first painting with a spray can in 1989. “At that time I was searching for something without knowing what. But when I painted with a spray can, I knew this is what I wanted to do. When painting on walls, one paints with the whole body while interacting with public space. I started with classical graffiti because I needed to learn the technique. It can take years to develop one's own artistic voice in this field,” explains Hendrik.

Known by many names

Though there many terms for what he does — graffiti, street art, urban art — Hendrik prefers to be known as just an artist. He fees that working in a public space is a special experience that produces either good or bad art.

“Good art is something that touches people. In many parts of the world, graffiti is a major influence on how one sees the city and affects the face of the city. That's because a gallery is a sheltered space where someone opens and closes the door. But everyone can see the graffiti.”

Graffiti, according to Hendrik, is found all over the world — in Europe, the U.S.A., South America, even in Russia and Siberia. Hendrik himself has painted on the streets of New York and in Russia, apart from his home country Germany.

He plans to paint in Korea next. “It's the most interesting field of contemporary art. It has already made its way up to galleries and museums and it's still growing. Though a lot of it is found on the walls of buildings, I wouldn't classify it as legal or illegal because most of the time it appears in the decayed parts of the city. It is an attempt to beautify something that is not being taken care of,” he argues.

He believes that the bigger and higher the art is the better. “Often there is a lot of competition from advertisements and billboards. So the spot is the biggest influence on the art. I always try to pick a spot that has good visibility and also a lot of soul. It should have a good atmosphere.”

One huge challenge while painting on walls is the interaction with the space while building the artwork. To ensure that his work stands out, Hendrik largely paints in monochromes. “Portraits are easier to do in monochromes, otherwise they become too realistic. It's also easier to work on expression. There's a lot of colour on the street anyway and I've noticed that monochromes produce deeper images.”

Over the last year, Hendrik has been working on a series of portraits of older people — images he captures in public places in his sketchbook before transferring them onto walls.

“Most of the time, the faces are sad. But my message is to live life to the fullest and do what you want to do. Add life to your years instead of years to your life. My message is not so obvious in my works, one really has to pay attention and read the work.”

He believes that most graffiti is just as positive. “Graffiti is a sign of life,” he concludes, “not a sign of aggression or vandalism. I think that's good.”

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