As a draughtsman, Matthias Beckmann has been working on picture series of select locations and institutions since 2002. He draws on site without any photographic aids or preparatory sketches.
So far he has worked on drawing sequences like the German Parliament (Deutscher Bundestag), Romanesque churches in Cologne, Komische Oper Berlin, emergency shelter for refugees in Berlin-Kreuzberg, Mercedes factory in Sindelfingen, Fraunhofer Institute IPA Stuttgart, 88 Berlin Studios.
He has also made numerous graphic documentaries about museums: Kupferstichkabinett Berlin, Berlinische Galerie, Museum of Asian Art Berlin, Art Museum Bonn, Museum Ostwall Dortmund, SMAK Ghent, State Museum Schwerin, Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal etc.
Drawing project about the Shanthinagar district in Bangalore:
Starting from my accommodation at 1Shanthiroad Studio / Gallery, I will explore the Shanthinagar area in my drawing series. In my project, I examine modern Bangalore and reflect and update the often-colonial tradition of travel artists who documented the country, people, flora, fauna and culture as companions for explorers. As with travel drawings from past centuries, my drawings are interpretations. They reflect my European cultural background, my interests, encounters, readings, previous knowledge.
As a drawing researcher, I am interested in the diversity of Bangalore and the encounter with different temporal, cultural and social levels and speeds. The rapidly growing megacity dominated by excessive traffic, an internationally important IT location, combines urban modernity with tradition and the coexistence of different ways of life, with temples and places of worship of different religions, markets, street vendors, exotic-looking colours, fabrics, ornaments ...
Even if I inform myself before the trip, I want to be surprised in Bangalore and record what can be drawn. As with previous drawing projects, the focus is on observation.
Thanks to a cooperation between the Lichtenberg Studios in Berlin and 1Shanthiroad Studio/Gallery in Bangalore, I can be here with a scholarship from the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan. Uwe Jonas, director of Lichtenberg Studios, said that it was a good idea to walk in the footsteps of colonial British travel artists in India. I want to create a series of watercolours on location, looking at the life and goings-on in Shanthinagar. This is the district where 1Shanthiroad, my accommodation and studio space is located.
20 years ago, Suresh had a young architect friend build this imaginative, intricate house on top of his parents’ house. Up and down stairs, different floors, an open courtyard with many plants and a roof terrace. I hit it off well. Great host, great house, great food and a nice room.
I have a small travel watercolour box, brushes with a built-in water tank (press the back and water comes out the front), a painting stool, watercolour pads, a baseball cap and of course sunscreen. I usually draw with a pencil first and then continue working on the picture with watercolours.
The Shanthi Road sign could be described as battered. I see it as a dynamic element that, with its form, reveals something about the movement in this street.
Everywhere you come across mysterious drawings. Women clean the floor in front of the house entrance, splash it with water and let white powder glide through their hand, creating artistic, centred ornaments from a line. Bangalore is a metropolis of one-line drawing. This is the place for me.
The pavements in Bangalore are narrow, full of holes and tripping hazards, but nobody trips. Most of the time you walk along the edge of the road. Cows can cross the road at any time and in any way. People have to learn how to do it. If a local wants to cross to the other side, you can join him. Otherwise, you have to venture alone. Above all, trust in God is important.
In Shanthi Road and the surrounding streets I found most of my motifs: construction sites, small shops, a freshly painted mosque, a Hindu temple and just nearby a Jain temple.
When I was drawing and watercolouring a motorbike repair workshop, it didn’t take long for people to look at what I was doing. Often the onlookers stay beside me from the beginning to the end of my work and follow the progress. Indians are open and hospitable. And very curious. They want to know where I’m from, whether I’m alone, how long I’m staying, for what purpose I’m drawing this motif. The children keep asking if the picture is finished. What a question. As long as I am working on it, nothing is finished.
I noticed how beautiful the little things can be by looking at a red cart on a street corner in my neighbourhood. Just around the corner is a small temple. I tried to combine a precise washed representation with a purely linear environment.
Cemetery Road is a paradise for draughtsmen. Here lie the cemeteries of the great religions of India: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. I came across the magnificent tomb with the mustachioed man on an elephant. You can commission something like that during your lifetime, if you’re so inclined. In the Hindu cemetery, you can go around on a scooter, or you can be taken to the desired place by autorickshaw. When I painted the god to whom sacrifices are made here, a friendly gentleman bought me water and orange juice. I’ve never experienced that in Berlin. Berlin needs to learn.
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.
The open hall of Johnson Market was built by the British. The butchers cut up large pieces of beef. I sat outside first and kicked away a small piece of meat that had been thrown close to me without intention. For the crows and birds of prey were already waiting and pounced on the scraps in flight.
At the centre of the huge, bustling City Market is a large, square market hall. On the upper floors, mainly used metal goods are sold, e.g. drills in every size and length. From the gallery I had a nice view of the baskets of flowers and flower garlands. Around the hall there are many vegetable stalls, in the side alleys goods of all kinds.
Of course I had to paint a cow, too. This time I drew it directly with a brush. The cow was already gone by the time I had finished watercolouring the rest of the sheet.