Back in the days he sprayed graffiti on dismissive concrete, now his own pieces are made of tonnes of the same material. He has learnt to observe inside the city desert and he has worked fast in urban no-go areas to practice his depictive script. He has also taken obsolete residues of graffiti into the open desert of the Emirates.
Does Heiko Zahlmann celebrate a radical renunciation of everything that once was important to him? Even though he is exhibiting more and more in galleries and museums, will he be able to persist when he stops being a sprayer? No, Heiko Zahlmann does not deny his past. His bordercrossing works, seen either in his street and gallery art or in public spaces would not have been possible without his history as a sprayer. When he douses paint over cubes of concrete, it is obvious that the offhanded moves of the sprayer leads to free, gestural lines on canvas. But what has led him to monochrome, black, grey and white works?
If we look more precisely at his boards, reliefs and steles, we recognize that the structure of the surface is written rather than painted. They are more monuments, which enable the theoretical possibility to let the strange scripts talk; also they allow th
e script as a great cultural innovation to be physical. Heiko Zahlmann himself describes it as Ñgraffiti without graffitiì or simply as Ñgraffiti 3.0ì He examines the progression of his art in the past and the future of his genre. The carvings into black groundings reflect the old traditions of individual Sgraffiti and this technique provides the possibility of co-operating with architects to inscribe his shapes into the cityscape. Graffiti is gaining acceptance after being combated for a long time, however Heiko Zahlmann’s art is causing displeasure especially among the ritualized sprayer community.
But why should someone, who deals with script for 20 years commit his service for example to advertising? The only paradox that he has to tolerate is that youngsters will tag his works in public space in return because the urban textures are continuously rewritten. In his desert action, which had been inspired by the sci-fite classic ÑPlanet of the Apesì Heiko Zahlmann defines the seeming archaeological retrospective as a fundamental leading medium. Maybe the tags will be really hieroglyphics in the distant future, which will be needed to reconstruct our past lifestyle.
Hajo Schiff, Hamburg 2008