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Updated: May 11, 2011 18:11 IST

Inspired by the good old Ambassador

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed
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Jon Den Hartigh. Photo: Special Arrangement
The Hindu Jon Den Hartigh. Photo: Special Arrangement

Jon Den Hartigh's work is influenced by street and pop art

Jon Den Hartigh is an artist who had a raspberry pink Ambassador. His paintings of the same car in a range of bright hues were recently exhibited. He also salivates over the thought of visiting the factory where that great Indian car is put together. “I bet it's like the coolest place on earth,” he says, sounding like an excited ten-year-old who wants to go to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Hartigh has a welcome smile, bright friendly eyes, speaks in a relaxed manner and has a hairstyle that looks like it wants to be a Mohawk but cannot really go beyond what it is right now.

Hartigh had put together an exhibition of some of his art work last month in the city. The inspiration for his paintings (no prizes for guessing) is the Ambassador and other Indian vehicles. Some of his paintings are huge, standing taller than the lanky Californian. Bursting with colour and a rich fullness, his paintings of Ambassadors, autorickshaws, Enfields and trucks are a depiction of what stood out when Hartigh first came to Bangalore. “This is all from a foreigners' perspective, right? What stayed in my head are things which we don't have in America,” he explains.

His work is influenced by street art and pop art and he wonders why Bangalore does not have its share of anonymous street artists. “There is not enough anarchy here. If kids had spray paint, they would go crazy,” he said. It almost looked like he was lamenting the chaotic order of Bangalore, but he was making a nuanced point about urban societies and free expression.

The day I met him deep inside the portals of his gated community in Yelahanka, the 34-year-old artist was in the midst of soaking in the early joys of fatherhood for the second time. His daughter Zahra, a week-old bundle of bliss, serenely lay in her father's arms as he spoke about his world.

Hartigh teaches art at an international school in Bangalore and his teaching is what brought him to India after an adventurous, peripatetic life that took him first to China (where he met his wife), Japan, South Korea and Sudan. “We usually move to a new place every two or three years,” Hartigh said laconically as if this nomadic life was the only way in which life could be lived.

Keywords: pop music


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