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H20 (detail), Eberhand Havekost, 2009, courtesy of
H20 (detail), Eberhand Havekost, 2009, courtesy of the White Cube

Eberhand Havekost

The German painter opens a show at The White Cube that invites you to consider reality as a construction of your own imagination

Eberhand Havekost is a painter interested in presenting us with multiple perspectives of subjects that we might sometimes overlook, or consider to be mundane. He employs a reductive technique that is nevertheless heavily layered with a base of light grey paint in order to create the effect of what the painter refers to as 'Democratic Light'. The resulting images have a ghostlike, ephemeral quality and project a beguiling ambiguity that forces us to consider the apparatus of perception. We caught up with him at The Groucho just before he hopped on a plane home, and after a long and slightly baffling discussion about the light falling through the door to the left of the bar, we asked him to explain his strange methodology.

Dazed Digital: What interests you in drawing our attention to mundane objects?
Eberhand Havekost:
I think what is important is that I love the object and I try to bring the object into perspective. I ‘frame’ the object and it becomes a sort of layer or a construction. I create a reconstruction of my point of view in the moment, and there is a connection between the object itself and the construction. For example, in the show, I have three paintings on one theme. In the first, you can see the reflection of a hotel room on the surface of a TV screen, in the second you see a TV functioning, and in the third you see a reflection of the hotel room at night. The TV is only an object, which is either sending light or absorbing light as it absorbs information. It is a veneer of information. I feel reality to be a construction, and I am making my own construction of that reality.

Dazed Digital: What do you find important about the reduction process? The tree paintings, for example, are very sparse and ghostly…
Eberhand Havekost:
With the trees, I took photographs of something that I couldn’t actually see in the darkness, because I took only a flashlight into the woods – I maybe saw the image for a moment, but then again maybe not. When you see the photo, it is of this moment that you can then make a reconstruction of, and that’s a reconstruction of your stem point or feeling, not a reconstruction of the thing. Painting is the best medium for recreating that feeling because you are making a reconstruction of the physical quality of the moment – you can bring your body into a singing tank of information and make a contact between what your body feels and what you see. For instance, when you see metal and put it to your face, you feel soft against it, and this is what makes it a reality.

Dazed Digital: What interests you about working from photographs?
Eberhand Havekost:
With photographs, I don’t have the problem of creating the composition. I come directly to the image, which has come directly from a chemical process. Photographs help me not to think about what is a nice colour; the colour just comes directly. I think that a photograph is more of an object than a painting; you need more abstraction and more energy to make it alive. I have some paintings in the show in which the colour invites you to make a projection and interpretation of what the object is, and it takes you maybe four or five minutes to get to a result – is it a head, or is it a landscape? When doing this you realise that you have delved into the painting, and that although you really see nothing, the colour has led you in. This interpretation process is always there a little bit before an abstraction of the contents of anything.

Dazed Digital: Do you employ this ambiguity to express the moment of freedom that exists between the viewer and the work in the Sartrean sense?
Eberhand Havekost:
Infinity comes before or after what you see in a painting, when I look on my studio floor, I see the cosmos there. I like the freedom of painting and, of course, the freedom of the frame. Then of course, you visualise information from frame to frame, and you have no end to this neurotic thing! When you have a frame on the side you are thinking of all the frames within the imagination. The crazy thing about making paintings is that you make it with a feeling of flatness, but the first second you look at it you’re thinking space; then you’re thinking size, and then you have to put the size into the space of the flatness.

Dazed Digital: I suppose for every painter it’s a form of communication about death in the face of an infinitely expanding universe?
Eberhand Havekost:
Indirectly, yes. It is also a reconstruction of complexity. To make a painting you need time for the selection of a motive, and you need time to produce it. When you actually make it, it is the same as when you click on a computer – it’s an analogue protest, and a communication process, and you feel nothing. It’s also a conflict between analogue and digital; I think that in the digital world you bring your brain into a computer, and then the computer only lasts eight years, so you have eight years memory in this moment. When you paint with your physical feeling, and with this physical quality… you have a completely different sense of time.

Eberhand Havekost is exhibiting at The White Cube until May 1