Painters 2013

Jürgen Leippert

Herbert Menzer, the festival organiser and sponsor, called Jürgen Leippert in Berlin 3 years ago inviting him to participate in the 2011 Lamu Painters Festival. “I told him, I’m not interested,” the artist remembers, chuckling. Taking a different tack to woo him, Jürgen was shown photographs of Lamu. “I was totally fascinated when I saw the architecture of Lamu…the houses and I said, ‘Wow! I have never seen this before.’” Jürgen attended that year and has returned every year since, a sign of how much Lamu interests him. He enjoys the rhythms of island life and finds many interesting people, objects, landscapes and activities that capture his attention. Jürgen, or ‘The Duke’ as he is endearingly called, is the most mature artist in the group, gregarious and well-liked. Many of the participating artists have mentioned how willing he is to share his experience and discuss painting techniques with others. One fellow artist told me of a technique he learned from “The Duke”: “take your painting and place it upside down and see whether it remains a good composition”. To Jürgen, the method is a testing of the rhythm of the painting. “It should be balanced both right side up and upside down,” he assures me.

Standing in Lamu’s market place, Jürgen studies his almost completed painting with an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. He turns to the people gathered watching him and wipes his thick paint brush with a cloth, wiping off paint. He smiles at the group of people and makes a joke with them then turns towards his painting and roughly applies new paint to his brush. He holds his arm ready like a javelin thrower and in a quick jab the brush makes contact with the canvas at the spot he has already identified. The jab is accentuated with a quick twist of the wrist as he adds emphasis or highlights to his painting. It is a typical Jürgen move, like creating punctuation marks to his canvas. I watched this move more than once and each time it filled me with fascination of his painting technique.

The painter was born in Stuttgart in 1944. He trained at the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin at a time when figurative painting was an unpopular form. Speaking about this time, he says, “It was a lonesome period. It took a long time for me to find others who have similar ideas of painting as I do.” Jürgen has lived and painted in New York, Rio, Vienna, Amsterdam and Berlin and now Lamu.

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