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Pines 7 - Dragon House

Ben Mathis 

Anfang Drachenhaus

Sunshine yellow and bright red, the façade of the Drachenhaus at 7 Kiefernstraße, designed by street art and graffiti artist Ben Mathis, takes the astonished visitor into the world of Chinese myths. This work of art was created in 2008/2009 as part of the Action (5x5) in cooperation with Farbfieber eV The residents of this house wanted to illustrate the variety of human life forms with this powerfully colored motif.

This Chinese dragon not only stands for wealth, but also for luck, wealth and intelligence. In China, the dragon is considered the ancestor of humans. He has power and energy and stands for health and a long life. It unites several creatures in itself and thus symbolizes its versatility/diversity. He calls his own a head like a camel, a deer's antlers and a snake's body with fish scales as well as feet with razor-sharp claws.

The entire design for this house, also known as the "sisters' home", was done by Ben Mathis. The facade was prepared and pre-painted by him. The motifs themselves were created with the spray can. Here I was very surprised in my telephone interview with Ben, because I could not imagine that these finely worked out contours are possible with a spray can. But I'm only the observer and not an expert. He worked on it for 2-3 weeks, he tells me on the phone, more than 12 years after the completion of this work of art. The good preservation of the colors is amazing. Ben has a simple explanation for this as well. The Pine 7 house is more in the shade, which means that the color does not fade as extremely. Actually quite simple, isn't it?

But who is actually Ben Mathis?

Born in Rouen (F) in 1977, he moved to Düsseldorf at the age of 10. 10 years later he was already designing large outdoor areas. From 2002 to 2003 he studied industrial design at the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences. In the years 2003 - 2010 he studied pharmacy at the HHU Düsseldorf, because it was clear to him that he could not live from his art alone from the beginning. So he created his dragon house in 2008/2009 while he was still a student. It was not his first large-scale work and it would not be his last. But first he did his doctorate in 2011 to become a pharmacist. 

In an interview that the Düsseldorf art magazine "THE DORF" conducted with Ben Mathis, he vividly tells of his first quite early spray successes:

How it all started...

In the 8th or 9th grade, Ben started spraying with new classmates. First his school was the canvas, later the young wild ones were drawn to new places. People rode bicycles to train tracks and turned night into day to beautify the bridges in the area. 

What drives a sprayer?

Some are looking for adventure, a kick, others seem to channel their destructiveness into colors and ultimately there are the really creative people, the artists who manage to take their art into urban space and, in contrast to galleries and museums, make it accessible to everyone close.

Ben obviously belonged to the latter, the creative ones. He perfected the possibilities of the spray can and over time he lost interest in time-limited night and fog actions and looked for ways to live out his creativity legally. Smaller orders followed, on walls and canvases, which could be sold. One thing led to another and Ben's artistic career took off.

In his opinion, the technique of street art has changed in recent years.

The decisive factor is not the ability to master spraying exactly, but to bring your own creative ideas to the public and thus be able to communicate with a larger audience. Making the simplicity of the art clear to the viewer is the great strength of street art. Since, in contrast to museums and galleries, these works of art are brought to the viewer unfiltered, not everything can be regarded as "artistically valuable". "That's life." That also happens.

Street art, graffiti art or murals, this term stands for large murals, are trendy and loud, he says, quickly and directly. 

Taking a direct position or representing a political point of view is not his concern. He finds art that points directly to grievances, with an artistic finger, so to speak, to be clumsy.

He likes to throw his critical questions into the room as a paradox, as opposites that exclude each other at first glance and don't really belong together. In this way, the viewer may be stimulated to think.  He does not see it as his job to judge, but wants to sensitize people to their surroundings. A consistent style of his own is not the measure of all things for him. Enjoying his work is paramount. He loves the power of his work and doesn't necessarily like to follow prescribed, planned paths. A path can sometimes lead astray, his works show leaps, but ultimately his works show a certain continuity, a common thread.

Krefeld, June 21

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