Leipzig artist preserves pre-gentrified city in miniature paintings | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 16.09.2015
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Leipzig artist preserves pre-gentrified city in miniature paintings

In his latest project, artist Heiko Mattausch is capturing the memory of Leipzig prior to gentrification in a series of miniatures. DW's Kate Brady went to the eastern German city to meet the man behind the paintings.

In just over two weeks, Germany will mark 25 years since the reunification of East and West. Over the past quarter of a century, Leipzig, the eastern German city which played a pivotal role in the fall of the Berlin Wall, has undergone a huge transformation.

Amid the fresh paint, new brickwork and facades of gentrification, memories of a bygone era can still be found, albeit less and less.

Since January, however, local artist Heiko Mattausch has been capturing the essence of the ever-disappearing corners of Leipzig in his twice-weekly miniature oil paintings as part of his online project, "Weekly Wonders."

"At some point, Leipzig will be completely gentrified," said Mattausch, remembering back to when the pictures he now paints were not a rarity but instead an accurate reflection of the vast majority of the city.

"I didn't like that so much," he said. "That was somehow too gray, but now that these places are becoming increasingly rare, they've acquired a certain romance and that's something I really like from an artistic point of view."

Heiko Mattausch, artist

Mattausch, a former architecht, has little interest in painting the city's main sites

Among his most recent paintings are seldom-seen perspectives of Leipzig's abandoned urban and industrial spaces, including Angerbrücke, Lindenau and Clara Zetkin Park.

Picturesque clutter

Born in nearby Döbeln, Mattausch has lived in Leipzig three times since 1994. He has experienced firsthand the vast architectural changes in the city since Germany officially reunified on October 3, 1990.

"Leipzig has developed rapidly," said the 39-year-old. "Although the city is very small, it's become considerably more international."

Despite the city's economic and aesthetic overhaul in the last two decades, the remains of Leipzig's industrial past have fueled his latest project.

Lindenau, a neighborhood in western Leipzig where Mattausch lives and paints, is the latest of many boroughs to follow in the footsteps of Plagwitz and Leipzig's "Südstadt," or the southern part of town.

Mattausch said, however, that although the district is becoming younger and more colorful, in the meantime Lindenau has also become more cluttered, daubed in placards and motifs.

"For me that's a really picturesque surface," he said.

Tourist spots 'too plain'

In recent years the city has received global attention for its transformation, lending itself to names such as "Hypezig" and "the new Berlin."

Mattausch has little interest in the city's main sites, however, which drew in over 1.5 million visitors and 2.5 overnight stays last year.

"I don't really paint the center or the monument to the Battle of the Nations or any of these typical tourist spots," he said, adding that such sights are "too plain" for his taste.

Instead, the former architect has been returning to old haunts from his early 20s, sometimes jumping out of the car to take a picture or make a quick sketch while out walking his dog, Molly. Amid the city's ever-changing facade, even some of his best-known locations can often leave a new impression.

"Sometimes I come across a corner that I've walked past a thousand times before but never really interested me. Then you go one time and see it in a completely new light, whether that be down to the time of day or season," he said.

"Hopefully these places will still exist for a little while longer, so that I can paint them before they completely disappear."

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