Mahatma Gandhi is hailed as the ‘Father of the nation’ in India. Recently, the capital of this country, New Delhi, saw a mural of Gandhi peeping from the walls of the Delhi Police Headquarters. Unveiled on the death anniversary of Gandhi, this mural was a part of the first ever street art festival in India held in February, 2014.
“Artistically it is a challenge to work from an existing photograph, it gives you kind of a limited space to add your own artistic characteristics to it, but I really feel we managed to master the task on this one. I think the placement of the mural with the high visibility either from the roads, the commuter trains or the metro makes it really unique,” says Hendrik Beikirch. It was probably the first time that Hendrik painted a famous face like that of Gandhi.
A freelance artist from Koblenz, Germany, Hendrik Beikirch ‘ECB’ completed this mural with an Indian graffiti artist Anpu. Known for the black and white portraits on canvas or large buildings,ECB mostly chooses anonymous faces and changes them into dreamy, poetic portraits.
“Inspiration could come through seeing the guy working long night shifts in a pizza joint in Brooklyn or a total stranger in a filling station somewhere in the Russian nowhere. Real expressions, faces with stories to tell, that’s what I am searching for,” says ECB. A nearly 230-foot tall mural of a man’s face ECB painted in South Korea in 2012 stands as his tallest work in Asia.
These magical faces, sometimes stretched or distorted, communicate to you on a subconscious level. You always feel you have seen this face somewhere. As ECB says, “elevating the subjects to iconic status and yet leaving them unknown, the portraits are a tribute to anyone and no one. They ask uncompromising questions about the nature of recognition and status in modern society.”
ECB has had continuous work-travels to Canada, USA, Mexico, Thailand, Australia, India, Hong Kong, China, Chile, Belarus, Russia and European countries. “Over the last years my work is done with grey, black and white paint, as I feel it suits my ideas best. If it comes to a lot of colors it makes it more difficult as a color is always attached to a certain emotion,” he explains.
Graffiti artists usually paint their signatures but ECB just leaves his ‘faces’ around. He clarifies, “I feel it would interfere with the text that I always incorporate into the paintings. I use the lyrical parts to open up additional worlds, to specify and add meaning. Also typography catches attention, it serves like an entrance for the viewer. As I used this typography for over 15 years now it has become my trademark or so to say signature.”
Graffiti is the new form of ‘expression’ gaining a lot of popularity in India recently. Usually the walls of India were painted with the government vote demands, national schemes or with public messages, which recently were replaced by creative and sometimes socially relevant graffiti.
“As this art form is a comparatively new phenomenon in India and that the Delhi Street Art festival really was a cornerstone for this, I feel that the first steps are always magical moments. It has been a blessing that I had the chance to be a part of it. I definitely think street art in India has a place to grow in the future due to so much talent and enthusiasm.”
People of Delhi have also welcomed this new wave of art and communication enthusiastically. Comparing his experience in Delhi to European countries, ECB thinks, “Delhi is way more vivid, also way larger in terms of population figures. Life is happening more on the street, which is a big advantage for street art as an art form. The audience has been really enthusiastic about the work as well as kind and helpful.”
Graffiti today has emerged as a strong medium of communication. With its root in the public space, a person just cannot ignore it. India as a nation is full of art and culture, and its walls are usually very colorful with Bollywood movie posters or random street art.
Street Art Festival Delhi is probably the new wave bringing in global artists to India, and giving Indian artists more palette to color and experiment. And making global art and art in general more accessible to the masses.
“While working in open and public spaces, artistic work always interacts with both the space and the public. It is a reciprocal form of communication in many ways. With a mutual affection this is the major advantage I see in working outdoors. Working in a sheltered space like a museum or gallery, it needs a different visual language, a different approach to capture the energy and essence of the street,” comments ECB.
Hendrik ECB Beikirch fits in the group of those who try new approaches and creative tools to interact with public space and keep feeding the crowd with intellectual and poetic art. Like random photographs of people and faces that you cherish, ECB faces always echo in your mind.
Watch out for this artist and who knows you may be his next inspiration and face!
(This article was earlier published on Mumora.com , May 5, 2014)