Uwe Henn was born in Mainz (Germany) in 1965. He grew up in a bourgeois, uneducated environment. Art had no meaning to his family. In early years of his life, he encountered art only in the form of two woodcuts and a stone mosaic, which his father had created during the six-months of stay in a sanatorium, when he was suffering from a life-threatening illness.
The art works created by his father in an uncertain time of his life, while thinking if he would survive the disease or not occupied the mind of Uwe and made him aware that man has the potential to do extraordinary things in life when he is faced with unexpected and unplanned painful situation in life. It made him realise that ‘art’ had to be something special, something valuable or higher, because it can give power to the people who are even terminally ill to make their last and most precious remaining time of life worthwhile.
At school Uwe was a mediocre and rather uninterested in studies as he did not like them. Instead, he was most interested in sports. However, he always got the best feedback and recognition in the subject of "art education". In elementary school and later in high school he always noticed that his art works were given special attention from teachers and classmates.
That made him happy and self-confident in this area, because he believed that he had a certain talent for art that one does not simply get in the cradle. His parents, however, did not take this seriously and dismissed it with the advice that one could not make a living with art as they believed people who did art were "crazy people." So, he pursued technical education as a survey technician as demanded by his parents.
Eventually, he turned away from technical education and studied a profession in public administration in his early 20s. However, he and his wife became parents right after his graduation. Since, at 26 he had a family to support he decided wholeheartedly to pursue a regular job that he continues to do even today.
However, when he was 30 years old artist in him started raising again. Once his two children were given a pastel crayon box as a gift. He used them and made a tiny painting of a Vampire for them. But his wife's grandmother thought that little painting was so beautiful and insisted on hanging it up on her wall. The grandmother's positive appreciation meant something special for Uwe because she was a talented, creative and cultured woman from an educated middle-class family. She used to be an actress and ballet dancer at a renowned Berlin theatre, and she knew art appreciation very well. She encouraged and inspired him to reactivate his buried passion for creating something artistic with his own hands.
That lead to beginning of nurturing an artist in him in a truest sense. Even though he could paint only after his work, he did everything to give himself a chance keep the artist in him alive as long as he can. Initially, he kept painting meaninglessly in every direction he could think of or comfortable with. But he was not satisfied, until he met an artist in an exhibition from whom he learnt to paint technically very well.
As the time passed by Uwe developed a great friendship with his art teacher, which still exists today. His teacher attached great importance to him learning about art history and the spirit of the times. After a few years of teaching, his teacher told him that he could no longer teach him anything technically. Instead, he advised Uwe to visit art exhibitions that would bring out in him much further, deeper, creative personal self.
It is 26 years now; Uwe continues to paint without ever hankering to do any exhibition or sell his works. Because he was painting for the sake of passion for art and channelling his own creative energy. Art had become a constant companion and an important outlet for him to stay balanced and composed in day-to-day work and life. Recently, he decided to reduce his full-time working hours in order to be able to work on his artistic endeavours.
Today Uwe is not just painter who paints but he is also tried his hand successfully in making sculptures. He may not have had any exhibition to his records or sold any paintings in 26 years as it was not his aim or interest, but he is nothing less than a formally educated or an accomplished artist.
By Deviprasad C Rao
(Based on email conversation with Uwe,
exclusively for devamitra.com)
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