Sunday, 17 May 2009

Eberhard Havekost

American Lip Gloss BO6, 2006
Oil on canvas 95 x 150cm

White Cube Hoxton, London
3rd April 2007

This painting was in his exhibition of new work in the White Cube and selected for ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ exhibition at the Hayward later the same year. I don’t care for his technique, but the interesting choice and range of subjects meant the exhibition was better than I expected.

All his work is based on photographs he has taken himself, video stills or found images and as the gallery handout explains; ‘using a computer, Havekost might crop, stretch, skew or tweak the colours of the picture, or leave it almost untouched before making an inkjet print that he uses as the direct source material for the final painting[1].’

A figure in white is slumped in the passenger seat with the seat belt on. The car interior is definitely American with their dreadful taste in seats and trim in almost matching garish colours. The head is obscured as the seat is tilted back. A pair of sunglasses are tucked into the door handle. The situation is ambiguous, the person could have been ravished, involved in an accident or murdered. The title doesn’t help and could be euphemism for the smear of red blood running from the face down the front of the passengers white jacket. I since read in a review for the Hayward Exhibition that the image is based on a widely circulated newspaper photo showing a German visitor to Miami murdered in her hijacked car.[2]

Probably the strongest melancholic notes comes from the subject matter, a holiday in the sun tragically cut short, but I also identify with the way he has rendered the interior of the car. He uses the blur of the brush work to unify his images, treating all images equally, but it really works for this subject. I can believe the nasty velour of the seats and the fake leather panels on the door. For me there is a depressing sadness of this pathetic attempt to make a poor substitute look cheerful and appealing, and that more than anything is American lip gloss. The cheap fake alternative to the ‘real thing’! Interesting to think that it is this interior detail that will fix the image in time and provide a commentary on a period in history. I don’t think the tampering with the perspective of the interior in the car adds to the melancholic aura of the image other than serving as a method for providing distance between the painting and the original image.

[1] From the gallery’s website.

[2] Dorment, Richard Review of ‘The Painting of Modern Life’ Daily Telegraph 2007

©blackdog 2009


  1. I remember to have read this shocking news about a German woman mudered in Florida, but I don't remember any photo, the German painter was, sorry, totally unknown to me. Your interpretation is very exact and sensitive- on the basis of your informations we are aware of terrible, shocking contrast: on the one side things signalizing full life/ dolce vita (red as life-colour), elegant American car, holiday in the sun, for many people the highlight and prime of the year, white summerdress, young attractive woman, lip gloss, sexual connotations (where was the driver?) - on the other side blood, red as colour of an accident or a murder (kind of murder?), the car-belt looks suddenly like a cutting sword, we are witnesses of a mysterious, horrible situation, presumedly of the end of a lovely time. The depictured situation is so horrible that I should feel compassion and sadness, but my first impression was: coldness, maybe the painting looks a bit too beautiful- some aesthetisized- but the more I deepen my contemplation, the more I'm getting sad considering the shortness of this life.-

    I listened today to the oratorium of Elgar, The Dream of Gerontius (with Justin Lavender and an English choir)- gorgeous, overwhelming the music and the feeling - and now I must say: 'Worlds' are lying between these two works: "There, motionless and happy in my pain, /Lone, not forlorn,-/There will I sing my sad perpetual strain(Elgar/Newman 1900)- 'lone' and totally silent, without any transcendent hope ( Havekost 2007)!

  2. Thank you Philine. I think coldness is something inherent in all his work. They seem very cool and devoid of emotion. Without the knowledge of the background would we find the image sad. Probably not. Give me Elgar any day, and he isn't my favourite composer by a long long way.

    On a technical note, I couldn't find the photo either (looked very hard too) and wonder if it was some "scene of the crime" video that he got hold of. Either that or a Stern image that hasn't made the web.