Hendrik Beikirch: Giant Portraits in the Urban Jungle
”If it comes to art in public space I believe you have two options: clandestine, small, hidden and tiny, or as big as it can get”.
With achievements as big as having created the tallest mural in all of Asia, Hendrik Beikirch still possesses a humble gratitude that resonates through his words. We caught up with Hendrik to talk about his raw yet astonishing portraiture.
When did your creative life begin? Has art always been your path?
I have been drawing since early childhood, it is something that has always been with me.
When I did my first piece with spray paint in 1989, I somehow felt that I had found something I had always been searching for. I guess as a teenager I was also looking for another language to express myself, and I found it in graffiti, as well as my extra bit of freedom, friendship, and adventure.
Where do you source your subjects from? Is there something that inspires you to choose?
Digital media has changed the way we see beauty. Most faces printed on billboards or ads appear unnatural. With my portraits I want to show real expressions.
In both my large-scale murals and canvasses, I try to depict the personal and the private, portraying people whose faces tell a story, even though they remain unknown to the viewer.
What are the upsides and downsides to the artist’s life?
To me it is the most freedom our society probably has to offer. Otherwise I guess you end up in a jail or a madhouse. What would be the downsides? I don’t really know, it is an endless search and I feel more alive when I am busy.
Your portraits are catastrophically huge – have they always been this size?
If it comes to art in public space I believe you have two options: clandestine, small, hidden and tiny, or as big as it can get.
Art has to compete with architecture, advertisements for the attention of passers – by in busy city streets. You only got a few seconds to catch the attention, to get this first impact right.
Painting at heights can be quite dangerous, have you ever had any injuries or close calls while creating works?
Luckily enough, I haven’t had any really close calls. Looking back on it, more just fun stories: a good few times running out of gas and getting stuck in the basket of a cherry picker.
What has been your most significant achievement or proudest moment as an artist?
There have been a few in the recent past.
But I still recall seeing my first graffiti piece at daylight the next morning, even if it is over 25 years ago now.
That still is special because it set the path to where I am today.
Have you got any other great passions besides art?
I am into running marathons. Not too crazy, but if it fits my schedule, I try to do one or two races a year. Like NYC in 2014 or Marrakech/Morocco at the beginning of this year.
Do you have an underlying message or theme that you carry throughout your practice?
Ultimately, I hope through my work to show an inherent pride, a confidence.
Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.
If you weren’t an artist, what do you see yourself doing instead?
As a kid I always wanted to be a fisherman.
Not too sure whether this would fit with being a vegetarian for the last 20 years though…