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Local Artist Paints Tallest Mural in Asia

It’s nothing new that graffiti is “in“ and is now a recognised art form that is displayed in galleries and appreciated by art critics – as a report in the last issue of The Basel Journal detailed.  Graffiti is impressive, especially the works of the artist known as “ECB” – art that can be enjoyed without wearing smart outfits or paying entrance fees.

By Stéphanie Erni

In a city called Busam in South Korea, there is a graffiti entitled “Portrait of a Fisherman” that covers an entire side of a skyscraper 70 meters (229 feet) tall. The mural was painted by the German artist Hendrik Beikirch, known as “ECB” in August 2012. It is one of the tallest murals in the whole of Asia and has turned Beikirch into a superstar in the graffiti art scene.

ECB im Juni 11 in LÖBuram is a port, and the fisherman on the picture represents a large part of the Korean population, who are not benefiting at all from economic growth, unlike their wealthy neighbours.

In a press release on the project, Beikirch says, “The man on this picture is one of the few fishermen that still goes out to sea. Working for six to seven days a week in difficult circumstances, hardly earning anything – that is not something young people nowadays want to do. It’s a job that is dying out, at least as we know it today.”

There is a positive message contained in this mural too: underneath the portrait, Beikirch added a sentence in Korean, which can be translated as the following: “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.” This impressive project has been organised by “Public Delivery”, an organisation that supports contemporary art in Asia and Europe.

The artist is famous for his portraits and faces. They can be seen all over Europe, Canada, the US and Asia. There is even one just around the corner: two years ago, ECB drew a portrait of a man on one of the tallest supporting bridge-pillars of the “Bridge Gallery” in Lörrach. It says “Callmeadreamer” under the picture. The pillar is 21 meters (69 feet) tall. Kai Hendrik Schlusche, former president of the Rotary Club Lörrach, initiated and financed this graffiti project, which was part of a school project entitled “Art and Vandalism”.

ECB went to school in Lörrach and is connected to our region. In the art scene he is famous for constantly being on the lookout for faces. He often secretly makes sketches of strangers. This was the case for the fisherman in Busam too. In an interview with The Basel Journal, ECB said that he had sketched a few fishermen by the port of Busam. “Once I have done a few sketches, I then do a few studies on paper before painting the final version on a canvas or a wall.” The message he wants to convey is contained in the faces that tell stories – a single contrast to the urban population. Beikirch says, “Actually the pictures have a double meaning. The faces are drawn, furrowed, and often tired too. On the other hand, it’s these faces that deep down display a sense of pride and confidence.”

Not every surface is suitable for portraits that have been sketched on paper beforehand. For example ECB painted the picture under the bridge in Lörrach freehand: it was an image he had in his head. As the pillar was 5 meters wide and 21 meters high (16×69 feet), it didn’t correspond to the dimensions of a face. In such cases the artist tries adapting to the given surface. “I distort or tilt the face and, in my opinion, this works better with freestyle than copying a sketch.” The reason for this is that the artist would like to make the most of the area in question. He spent three days working on the graffiti in Lörrach and eight days on the fisherman in Busam. He doesn’t only use spray paint. “First I spray the rough outline of the face on the wall. That gives me a basic shape, and then I model it according to the light and shadows, starting with the darkest colour. I use spray paint for the areas where colours flow into each other, and I use emulsion paint for larger areas which I fill with an ink roller.” One can usually only detect mistakes or faults from a distance with pictures this size. “That is why I regularly turn my crane as far away from the wall as possible, so I can look at the picture from a distance. At the end I spray my signature on it, usually in white.”

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