Big City Life

An exhibition of Eberhard Havekost’s works in Bhau Daji Lad Museum marks the German artist’s debut in India.

Written by Zaira Arslan | Published:February 27, 2012 1:59 am

In the special exhibitions gallery space in Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum currently hang 19 paintings and 113 offset prints. One of these large oil-on-canvas works shows a room full of discarded cardboard boxes,papers,plastic bags and other such objects. The work,created in 2003,is called Trash. Another,a single work comprising four panels,is called Mobile. The object in this painting looks more like a train,but could just as well be a bus,too. The idea was simply to create a work that represents a mode of transport.

Like Mobile,Eberhard Havekost’s works chosen for this exhibition,titled ‘Sightseeing Trip. Eberhard Havekost in India’,represents city life — the artist’s primary source of inspiration. “The dimension and chaos of the city occupy my mind,as do the differences that are evident,” Havekost says.

Interestingly,most,if not all,of these works do not appear to be specific to any one city. Mathias Wagner,the curator of the show,attributes this quality to the increasing globalisation of cities. “Cities today are getting more and more globalised so the images of these cities are more global too,” he says. And although Havekost finds his motifs in the city,his works show the smaller details,unlike a number of other artists whose works focus on life in a city.

Consider the offset prints,for instance. Mercedes 1-7,a work comprising seven prints,is seven close-up pictures of a Mercedes from seven different angles. The entire car,however,is not visible in any of the pictures. Injektion/Injection is another extreme close-up of a car with paint peeling off the fender and a partially missing headlight. Similarly,Natur is a picture of the stump of a tree that might once have been grand. This,Wagner believes,is the most important characteristic of Havekost’s work. “More important than his motifs are the way he lets us see them in his work,” Wagner says. “Most often,he shows us only fragments and splinters from which we reconstruct the reality in our minds.”

Havekost is one of Germany’s most recognised artists,but one whose work has never been viewed in India before. So now,as part of the celebrations for the Indo-German friendship year 2011-2012,Bhau Daji Lad Museum — in collaboration with the Dresden State Art Collections — one of Germany’s most recognised museums — has offered Indian viewers the chance to see his work.

The theme for this friendship year is city spaces,which consequently became an important factor in selecting the works to showcase here. It wasn’t,however,the only factor,as the works also show the artist’s evolving style. “The prints and the paintings cover a period of around 10 years (2000-2011),so the viewer is able to recognise the progress in the manner of painting as well as in the photo-motifs for his prints,” Wagner explains. “On the other hand,according to the theme of city spaces,we tried to concentrate the selection to typical city pictures.” The exhibition will continue at the Byculla Museum till April 1.

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