Sabine Maria-Schmidt

Drawing at the scene


Drawings of the scene of a crime are drawings that are intended to record the exact positions of all objects dicovered where a criminal act has occured. Around the turn of the century, this method of police investigation was still characterised by a proximity to bourgeois-artistic ideas of the picture, which resulted in highly aesthetic and detailed drawings. Generally, the only blemish on the compostional harmony of such a picture, which could also be constued as a depiction of an interior, was the marking of the position of the dead body. Today, drawings of this type have a substantially more sober appearance. They focus primarily on the exact measurement down to the centimetre of the distances between important items discovered at the scene, but also details that appear to be completely minor. The result is a complex interlacing of lines, generally abstract, marking a neutral space as a place of wrongdoing. ¹

Matthias Beckmann’s drawings, by contrast, do not deal with crimes, but with setting up artistic installations and with celebrations such as the St. Liborius Festival („Liborifest“) in Paderborn. The extreme interlacing of the lines calls for comparison, though here they emerge from the opposite intent. It is not the precise distances, the accurate recording of space in perspective or in photography that is of interest to the artist, but rather the graphic character and randomness of constellations of things that strike him on observation tours. A fixed location is not reconstructes in detail, but rather the temporary event as a union of objects and people becomes a scene, one that is recorded in a quick sweep, much like a photographic snapshot.

In contrast to the drawing of the scene of a crime, which is oriented on a central event and thus on a central topic, Beckmann chooses motifs for his drawings more in the manner of a passer-by or stroller: his selection is not subject to a hierarchy of form, topic or significance.

In these drawings, the world appears distorted, but all the more interesting, much different from the objective aloofness of photography. The artist’s eye shifts some of the observed scenes towards caricature („Canossa. Convulsion of the World“), objects seem to take on a life of their own (Merry-go-Round, Mother of God with sculptures of the child Jesus). The differentiation between image and object of the image is shaken especially where works of art and reproductions of them are reproduced in drawings, where art is indistinguishably mixed with technical equipment. In more recent drawings, text is also increasingly gaining ground as an element. Drawings of banners with the inscription „Show outwardly what you believe internally“, underneath it the sign on a fun-food stall offering roasted almonds and nuts. This makes the drawings narrative, almost talkative.

Matthias Beckmann is one of those artists who are positioned primarily as graphic artist, and have rediscovered the outline drawing as a medium of documentation. In his series, it becomes clear that he feels well in the medium of classical freehand drawing (Flaxman, Ingres, Picasso), and also that he does not shy away from utility drawing (book illustration, comics, court drawing, location plans, technical drafting and the like). The result is a multifarious, non-dogmatic style of drawing in which a flowing line can be celebrated as well as a more minuscule one, sometimes an almost shaky stroke. Beckmann also uses cinematographic and photographic elements that influence the composition and selection of his series, for example zooming between long shot and close-up, the impression of depth of field, the selection of some almost impressionistic moments reminiscent of stills from a moving camera.

Beckmann puts his trust in small, intimate drawings, he does not fit his observations together to form syntheses. He is not interested in historical, political or analytical representation (like, for example, Andreas Siekmann, Alexander Roob, Korpys/Löffler, Dierk Schmidt or Jürgen Stollhans). Rather, as an observer and chronicler, he remains faithful to a more classical genre, which derives its field of tension from the droll encounter of aura and everyday routine. At the same time, it is linked to the tradition of journalistic drawing (for example artists such as the Spanish graphic artist Carlos Sáenz de Tejada or the German Karl Hubbuch); its conceptual starting point is the academic tradition of drawing works of art². Drawing is here not only an instrument, but also a goal.

As a „scene“, the city of Paderborn appears in Beckmann’s folios as a place of functional and symbolic prominence at which the contradictions between representation and marketing encounter each other with full force.


¹ Cf. Clemens Krümmel on Tatjana Bergius, in: Tauchfahrten, Zeichnung als Reprotage (Diving, Drawing a Reporting), Kunsthalle Düsseldorf etc., 2005, p. 94

² Museum vititors’ habit of making snapshots of a selected work of art with a camera was the point of departure of his museum drawings; subsequently, he has resolutely continued to develop this in institutions as the van der Heydt-Museum in Wuppertal, the Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, the S.M.A.K. in Ghent, the Romanic churches in Cologne and other places.