A consistent feature in his work is reduction. With his affinity for music and pop culture and the references to it in many of his works, as well as in the knowledge of his enthusiastic and inspiring activities as a music collector and DJ (he has also designed flyers, posters and record covers – including eight for italic), one might even speak of Dub. In this musical genre, which originally emerged from Reggae, songs are purged and reduced to their essential elements; and single markers are repeated e.g. with echo effects. Likewise, Krawen interprets the surrounding world, reducing it to precise stark drawings, he works with a monochrome colour scheme and through the use of patterns makes visible the constructed nature of a supposed chaos.
Krawen’s drawings remind one of Ingres, of the illustrative works of early Warhol, of the Franco-Belgian ligne claire school of comics and, of course, of architectural drawing. Fastidiously rendered, he often contrasts his motifs with coarse shadow-figures, who in painterly quality go beyond mere staffage. Krawen’s tools are brushes and paint. The graphite pencil is used only privately or in the sketchbook.
Krawen plays with typography, between sgraffiti and graffiti, twisting and turning letters, working with stamps and stencils. Here handwork is crucial. Krawen does not paint watercolors onto computer prints. Keeping with music, his inspiration is more likely to be found in the DIY aesthetics of early Detroit Techno, Jamaican Reggae records, or African music.
Krawen’s painting is solid, graphical, often full-tone. Here, too, he works with utmost care – application of color, monochromy, contrast. What is portrayed becomes emblematic. Gestural expression is of less importance to him; rather an affinity to screen-printing, as an idea, the pattern, the serial.
ICH SING’ DIR EIN LIED – meaning “I’ll sing you a song” – is an exhibition in two parts.
For the first part (9 September – 4 November), Hendrik Krawen combines six individual works in situ to create a great narrative. Five landscape formats, one square. The color palette is reduced to brown, yellow and green, the color application is solid. I’ll sing you a song. From left to right are two shadows, an embrace, a kiss, folding pictures, a interplay with strong contrasts, what is there, what is not, what is the substance, what is the emptiness – all just a dream? This repeats itself in the stars – when I stamp them out, do I see them? Or not? “Fatal” (oil on canvas, 2016) is the title of the largest work. An urban network of streets, a connexion in the literal sense: framed by two watercourses in the form of a male and a female silhouette, which seem caught in an intertwining movement; the street names are an alphabet of meeting, loving and parting. Next to the green square, then “Fin”, the end, the orange-brown writing, the dark brown background bulges up, the paint seems to be blistering off, creating space, for something behind it: I’ll sing you a song. And it is far from over.
The second part (11 November – 30 December) belongs to the opposing tiled wall. The painting »Gulf of Oman« (oil on canvas, 2017) is part of his series of works featuring oil tankers, begun in 1991 (the first Gulf War). Hendrik Krawen translates the subject of marine painting, of real or possible veduta – decipherable in the composition of the ship models – into his own language: the extremely deep angle of perspective and the horizon, the wide-open sky, the precision in the monochrome representation. This can also be found in his cityscapes – where the real or possible location becomes visible by means of architectural elements and typographical signs, such as signposts or advertising billboards. I’ll sing you a song. The great ships distance themselves from us. I see them disappearing on the horizon.