'High Holborn', Günther Herbst

Painting showing a ramshackle building made of create, doors and hoardings

Oil on canvas, 44.5 x 66.5cm, 2005/6

Artist's statement

'High Holborn' is part of an ongoing series of paintings based on homeless shelters that I photographed in central London. The materials and fibres that make up these shelters, and the way they are at odds with the surrounding architecture of the city, was the original trigger. However, one cannot disregard the human element to these images. Homelessness is a morally difficult subject to deal with and by painting these images I hope to confront the viewer, provoking them into looking at something we normally tend to ignore.

Consider, at the same time, the importance of the ‘home’ to the housed population, fuelled by the deluge of home improvement programmes on TV, the abundance of interior design and gardening magazines and DIY stores. Yet we seem to take our homes for granted, like our bodies, and are only reminded of their significance under circumstances such as house-moving, family rows, wars, fires, lost jobs, debts.

The structures at the site at High Holborn reminded me of Mondrian’s work. In the painting I have quoted his style in order to comment on the mediation of the image and locate the work within the history of painting, using this as a systematic code in order for the original subject matter to operate more strongly.


Günther Herbst was born in South Africa in 1963. He studied at Witwatersrand Technikon South Africa 1989-91 and Goldsmiths College London 2000-02. His exhibitions include a solo show at Linda Goodman Gallery Johannesburg 1992, Un Art Contemperain d’Afriqu de Sud Gallerie de l’Esplenade Paris 1994, Summer Exhibition Royal Academy of Arts London 2003, Gewalt Loushy Art and Editions Tel Aviv 2004 and Caution Uneven Surfaces temporarycontemporary London 2005. Awards include Observer New British Artists Award 2002. Has work in collections in the UK and South Africa, including the National Gallery Cape Town and Johannesburg Art Gallery.