Beikirch's elderly fisherman represents the large number of South Koreans still working in traditional industries who have not felt the benefits of the country's rapid economic development, signified by the glass and steel skyscrapers in the background.
Beikirch painted the mural on the side of Busan's fishing union building located between Haeundae and Gwangalli beaches. Underneath is a statement in Korean which translates as: “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”
The project was led by Public Delivery, a Seoul-based organisation that promotes contemporary art across Asia and Europe, who explain that Beikirch "deliberately distances himself from the polished and artificial aesthetic of advertising" usually found in public spaces.
For more outdoor art, have a look at Dezeen's map of Hackney locating stencil work by street artist Banksy.
Here's some more information from Public Delivery:
During the last week of August 2012, German painter Hendrik Beikirch created not only a stunning work but an iconic piece that stretches over 70 metres (230 ft.) high and is yet to be considered as Asia’s tallest mural. Located in South Korea‘s second largest city, Busan, this piece showcases a monochromatic mural of a fisherman, set in contrast with the Haeundae I’Park building at the background, constructed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.
The Haeundae I’Park is a residential building and is also a symbol for the rapid development and accumulated wealth in Korea, a poor country not too long ago. The mural that depicts an image of a fisherman represents a significant portion of Korea‘s population that has not been affected by the economic growth and until now, lives under very different circumstances compared to their affluent neighbors.
Responsible for this project is Public Delivery, a organisation who has made waves across Asia and Europe through the promotion of contemporary art. The artwork will be on display for an indefinite period of time.
The mural presents a local fisherman in his 60s, staring into an intangible space with his face marked with wrinkles, still wearing long plastic gloves – a sign that there are still men and women like him at this age working for a living. This dying profession entails six to seven days of work in a week, under difficult circumstances, while just receiving a minimum amount of financial support, just enough to buy certain needs.
However, despite the story behind the portrait, the painting conveys a positive message seen in the emotion shown by the fisherman. In addition, underneath it, Beikirch added a statement in Korean letters which roughly translate to “Where there is no struggle, there is no strength.”
Beikirch is known for his artworks set in monochromatic and detailed painting and this is no difference. Unlike other artists, he painted this mural without using a projector or a sketch on the wall. This, in its true form, is a masterful performance and a task that requires enormous routine and outstanding precision.
The painting is applied on the building of Busan‘s fishing union. It is located between Korea’s two most famous beaches, Haeundae (해운대해수욕장) and Gwangalli (광안리해수욕장), clearly visible from the latter. Over the past years, both beaches turned into excessive commercial areas and became heavy motors for the city‘s tourism, attracting mostly Korean, Japanese, Chinese and Russian travelers.
The building is also home to a fish market that provides the prosperous inhabitants of Busan, like those living in the Hyundai I’Park building, with Korean style raw fish (hoe, 회), a pricey delicacy that is similar to Japanese sashimi.
Hendrik Beikirch (b. 1974) is a German painter well known for his series of large monochromatic wall paintings that often show portraits of older people, visibly marked by life. In order to create these works, Beikirch secretly takes sketches of strangers whom he encounters on his travels, noticing them for their aura and expression between hope and struggle. This inspired the title of his on-going series “Faces of Hope and Struggle” and runs seamlessly on the canvases of Beikirch, which mostly displays the same frontal view of unfamiliar people. He deliberately distances himself from the polished and artificial aesthetic of advertising, which has now occupied major parts in public space.
Beikirch always works with a reduced color palette, and therefore the high recognition factor ensures that viewers now can easily find walls by him all over Europe, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Chile, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Russia and other countries, all painted in the last 15 years.
This project would not have been possible without the support of The Busan Cultural Foundation, The Arts Council Korea, Busan Metropolitan City, Indie Culture Network AGIT and Suyeong Local Government. MBC, the oldest and one of the major commercial Korean broadcasting companies, is the main media partner.