PREVIEW & INTERVIEW: “Rental Asylum” a Solo Show by Herakut at Corey Helford Gallery – Saturday, February 24th
This Saturday, February 24th, Corey Helford Gallery premieres a new exhibit by renowned German graffiti duo Herakut. This team, comprised of Jasmin Siddiqui (known as Hera), and her partner Falk Lehmann, (known as Akut) joined forces in 2004 to create a now internationally-known painting partnership.
Best known for their imaginative street murals of children and animals, usually with meaningful messages or illuminating text included, the couple also creates paintings, drawings, photography and sculpture in the same storybook feeling for gallery and museum shows. They have exhibited in France, Gaza, Germany, and Jordan, (among many others), been featured at festivals from Glastonbury (U.K.) to Coachella (U.S.) and made an appearance at the 80th Birthday celebration for the Dalai Lama. This is their second exhibition at CHG.
All of their work tells a story, as their imaginative narrative style and artistic illustrative ability leads the viewer down a path that can best be accessed with an open mind and heart. As we all know that fairytales are often grim, so too, much of their work has a dark edge to it, with melancholy expressions and sometimes fierce storylines. Their style and technique of collaborative painting also require dialog between the artists, as they each lend their own perspective and emotion to the work. Jasmin uses her drawing skills to outline and define the form and proportion of their characters, while Falk specializes in painting the photorealistic elements. The result is pure magic!
We managed to get Hera off the scaffolding long enough to answer a few questions for us …
Q – (Dale Youngman) You are famous for your large-scale public art murals, and many cities are honored to have your work grace their streets. Do you have a favorite, and why?
A – ( Jasmin/Hera) We love so many of our babies, but one of our favorites would probably be the piece we did for the O.bra Festival that our friends from Instagrafite put together in Sao Paolo, Brazil, in 2015. On this mural, we collaborated with the Polish artist M-City, whose style is the most contrasting to ours, as he creates monochromatic stencil images which are always perfectly planned out. Our messy freestyle technique is completely different, obviously. So, I just feel like with this mural, we could really present a wide range of what Street Art can be like. You have my sketchy lines, my tagging, the drippy fill-ins, then Akut´s fine art photorealism, and stencils done on a very large scale. The whole wall is huge. It´s 164 feet high, and with the boom lifts we reached to 147 ft. You cannot believe how much the machine was shaking with the wind at that height. But the view was incredible! The title of the piece was: “Nobody Is Too Small To Matter.” And you do feel tiny when you work on a wall like that!
Q – You have been painting together since 2004. Do you still do your own individual work, and if so, which process do you most enjoy and why? If not, can you envision ever doing solo work again?
A – We have never stopped creating our own artwork next to what we do collaboratively. My sketches sometimes are the base for a Herakut piece, but sometimes I just let them be drawings on their own. My last solo show was with Chicago’s Vertical Gallery in 2017, and I´ll be exhibiting more solo work at Moniker Art Fair in New York, later this year. Falk has had his photographs exhibited as part of various group shows, one of them in Portland with Mercy Corps in 2016 when he was able to share the photos he took while working in refugee camps in Jordan and Gaza. Falk´s photos are amazing, by the way. They, too, sometimes lay the groundwork for Herakut canvases, just like my sketches, so you can see, that all those different projects always correlate and feed off each other.
Q – I have heard that you consider yourselves storytellers. The subjects in your latest series “Rental Asylum” certainly seem to have a tale to tell. What is the story behind the concept, and how did you come up with it?
A – To be honest, ever since the U.S. presidential elections of 2017, the news has become more and more frightening. Really worrying white supremacist tendencies have surfaced all over the Western world, and the German elections were also so horribly affected by a neo-nationalist, openly racist movement, that we thought had been overcome decades ago. More and more we’ve had to intentionally shut out media, news full of hate-speech, aggression, unjustified decisions by hedonists and war profiteers. RENTAL ASYLUM is something we´d actually like to have available to us: to cleanse yourself from the horrors we see and hear about every day, we´d love to rent out a clinic room every once in a while. In our show you will meet some of the patients you´d find at that kind of retreat. Individuals coping with inner and outer demons, but also finding comfort in themselves and other asylum inmates.
Q – I imagine that collaborative works can sometimes be challenging for two artists who both have powerful imaginations. Who determines the narrative for your work? Have you ever disagreed on a concept?
A – Most of the time, I´ll run an idea by Falk and he´ll be either thumbs-up or down. His expertise is the photo aspect. So, once I have worked out first-lines, he will find the right kind of photo material to bring my lines to life. Of course, we disagree with things, but that´s probably what has secured this career that has been lasting for 14-years now. We need to find common grounds, and that way, we probably make our stories speak to a wider audience than if just one of us was “talking.”
Q – I know you are involved with a few charity organizations that work with children. How do you interact with them? As painting teachers, mentors, or something else? What do you most enjoy about that experience?
A – We are involved with different NGOs focusing on creating a more colorful, more inspiring environment for children. Our friends from aptART have become part of the family, ever since we went with them to Jordan in 2014. But we are open to all sorts of projects, be it on environmental or social issues. My personal favorite, though, is painting murals with children who have never had the chance to do that. The shine in their eyes is magical! And you should see how proud they are, once they have gained control of the spray can as a medium. With the little ones, we usually let them enjoy getting their hands dirty. Really young children are so excited to mix paint. To have them create purple out of mixing blue and red is almost like teaching them a magic trick. It´s hilarious and so very refreshing. It reminds me of why it is important to share our knowledge. The next generations of artists are out there already!
Top Photo: One of Herakuts’ favorite murals painted in Sao Paulo, Brazil as a collaboration with M-City
Scroll down for a preview of the exhibition, courtesy of CHG.
Herakut’s “Rental Asylum”
February 24th – March 31st
February 24th, 7-11pm
Corey Helford Gallery
571 S Anderson St (Enter on Willow St)
Los Angeles, CA 90033