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Bangalore Street Life
Watercolours by Matthias Beckmann

16 June – 29 July 2023, Opening: 15 June, 6-9 p.m.
until 23 August: Tuesday, Wednesday and by appointment

With “Bangalore Street Life”, Galerie Poll is showing Matthias Beckmann’s first solo exhibition of watercolours, which he created in the fall of 2022 in India’s third-largest city (after Mumbai and Delhi). Invited as part of the Goethe-Institut’s bangaloREsidency, the artist found himself directly confronted with the everyday life of a metropolis of eleven million people for two months: “My first watercolour in Bangalore was painted in a cemetery not far from the Lalbagh Botanical Garden. There I fled from the chaotic traffic, from autorickshaws, scooters, and horns. Everywhere in the city you find very lethargic dogs. One of them was lying on the cemetery wall,” is how Matthias Beckmann describes his first impressions.

The artist became known for his linear pencil drawings, as shown in group exhibitions at the Galerie Poll and other places. This time, however, Beckmann travelled with a small watercolour box in his luggage, along with a brush with a built-in water tank, a painting stool, and watercolour blocks, which proved to be the ideal equipment for the voyage he would take in discovering a world he encountered as so new and colourful. From the position of watchful observer, he could easily engage with the rhythm of life in the city. Beckmann’s explorations mainly took him on foot through the Shanthinagar district, where the poor, the middle-class, and the well-heeled, local and migrants, live side by side.

At the end of the two-month journey, he had produced a total of 117 watercolour drawings in 30 x 24 cm format, some drawn in pencil and then coloured with watercolour, some inked directly with a brush, and some washed in sepia colours. Beckmann sketched in cemeteries and botanical gardens; he captured the colourful hustle and bustle of the meat and flower market and observed street life with its scooters, chickens, goats, and cows. His motifs include magnificent tombs, temples, and a mosque, as well as posters of the dead, a wooden cart parked by the side of the road, or the Rangoli patterns, sprinkled with white powder, that women leave behind at the entrances to buildings early in the morning. With his undisturbed eye for detail, Matthias Beckmann brings more than a touch of the lively atmosphere of Bangalore to Berlin.

“In this process of documentary drawing of objects, street life an architecture, that is old and new, he consciously decided to move beyond the colonial gaze of picture postcard views that focus on the obvious. His graphic ability is not to be hyperrealistic like photographic documentation of a subject but a careful gathering of details to capture the essence and the aura of a place, and his curious gaze does not avoid the random slice of life that has passed by without us noticing it.” (Suresh Jayaram, Director of the Artists’ House 1 Shanthiroad in Bangalore)

Matthias Beckmann, born in Arnsberg in 1965, studied at the Düsseldorf Art Academy with Prof. Franz Eggenschwiler and at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design (Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste) with Prof. Rudolf Schoofs. Since 1995 he has been a member of the artist group Die Weissenhofer. Now based in Berlin, he has focused his work mainly on drawing. Usually he creates individual pieces as parts of a larger series devoted to a place or a complex of themes. He has also frequently illustrated books, as well as working on animated films, and has been recognised with numerous scholarships and prizes. His works are held many public collections, including the Berlinische Galerie, the art collection of the German Bundestag, and the Hamburger Kunsthalle. Matthias Beckmann has also taught at various universities; in the summer semester of 2023, he is teaching at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin.