Monday, April 30, 2012

Is this what we think it is?

Photos: A painting called 'Trash'; artist Eberhard Havekost

Eberhard Havekost is one of Germany’s leading painters. His work reveals that there are different perceptions of reality

By Shevlin Sebastian

One of the oil paintings which immediately strike the viewer at the 'Eberhard Havekost in India' exhibition is one of trash. There are a couple of blue sacks, open cardboard boxes, a discarded sofa, a refrigerator, as well as an air-conditioner, picture frames, a rolled-up carpet, and paper cartons, all lying about haphazardly and drawn in a realistic style. “Rubbish in the public space is a big problem in India,” says curator Mathias Wagner. “But this image is from Berlin, so there is litter in public areas in Germany also.”

Eberhard is one of the leading painters in Germany now. He takes photos of various objects, be it buildings, TV images, advertising hoardings and rubbish. Thereafter, he either does a painting or makes a photographic print. Says artist Bose Krishnamachari, “Eberhard takes materials from day-to-day life and transforms it into wonderful art objects.”  

Eberhard's theory is that there are myriad versions of reality. “Each human being has its own interpretation,” he says. “Reality is constructed through the images in our head.”

So, there is a remarkable series of a single house as shown through a glass window pane which is banging in the wind. In one painting, the window looks elongated, in another, it is squashed, while in a third, the building itself changes shape.

In another series called 'Mobile, 1,2,3,4', it shows the same window of a moving suburban train in Dresden. So the image changes from sunlight, to pitch black, and a silver shade. “As the train keeps moving, the colour that is reflected in the windows also changes,” says curator Mathias. “Just like our perception of reality keeps changing all the time.”

The exhibition has been organised by the Dresden State Art Collections, in collaboration with the Kochi Biennale Foundation, with the support of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Kerala. This is to celebrate the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Germany and India.

In another thought-provoking work, there are soldiers standing on an Army tank. It is a hazy image which is reproduced in another work, placed next to it, except for one difference: a round orb of light has been placed in the middle of the painting. “This indicates that a photograph has been taken,” says Mathias. “Eberhard is focusing on the reality created by the media. The painting is a reproduction of a TV image. The television screen is a solid object which you can touch, but the image is ephemeral.” Says Eberhard: “Like many people, I have a skepticism regarding the authenticity of images.”

Apart from paintings, there are 113 offset prints. Eberhard made them based on photographs he had taken. These include the front part of a rusted Mercedes Benz lorry, a man wearing a Superman suit, the fender of a car with its white paint peeled off, and a broken-down gramaphone record player. “I like viewers to make their own interpretations,” says Eberhard.

Interestingly, Eberhard, who came to Kochi last year, is impressed by the place. “It is a town that accepts the jungle surrounding it,” he says. But is the rapid urbanisation which is taking place a sign of progress? “Yes, just carry on,” says the artist. “But it would be nice if there were less rubbish and litter.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi) 


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