Sculpture at Galerie Artisan. Berlin-Kreuzberg. Germany. © Matt Lemon Photography. All Rights Reserved.
Back in 2013, my sister and I happened upon this guy during a cycling tour through Kreuzberg, which, for better or for worse, has become one of Berlin’s most popular boroughs. Kreuzberg has long been a bastion for leftist activists and home to a diverse mix of people, including many families from a migrant background. While the Eastern part, Berlin SO 36, still looks quite the way it always has, the Western part, Kreuzberg 61, has undergone considerable gentrification. Not being a resident of 61 myself, I quite like to visit it once in a while to browse through postcards at Ararat, have coffee and cake at Mr. Minsch, eat goulash at G wie Goulasch, or hang out with one of my best friends at his shop Amphora [now closed]. For natives, however, 61 has changed to an extent where it is hardly recognisable, and living in the middle of a tourist attraction, where posh restaurants and expensive boutiques have replaced much of the original flair and culture, certainly doesn’t sit too well with them.
On our cycling tour, my sister and I stumbled upon Artisan Gallery at Solmsstraße, where artist Matthias Maßwig creates, exhibits and sells his sculptures, objects, paintings and collages. His favourite material to work with is wood, which he describes as particularly animate, just as his sculptures are, too. Maßwig particularly likes to create smooth surfaces from light-coloured woods to caress one’s hands – so don’t be shy: touch them!
“Light and shadows play on their faces, they bent over or prance around, they love, they cry, they tell their stories. Those who integrate them into their lives, who adopt them as tenants into their homes, can experience every day how real they are. As you smile at them, cry with them, listen to them, or, most importantly, touch them, you will be touched by them.”
We didn’t adopt the guy, but his photo became the August sheet of my photo calendar. We named him Kulle, a name that was used in one of the adverts for Paech Bread Ltd., a former Berliner bakery whose adverts used Berlinerisch dialect to promote their product. One of them said: “Der Orje fragt den Kulle, haste nich ‘ne Paech-Brot-Stulle?” (Orje asks Kulle, don’t you have a Paech Bread sandwich for me?) But that’s a story for another day.