Devendra Banhart

There is big beauty in small things, in words that sit alone and pictures that hover like distant galaxies in the quiet abyss of a broad canvas. The boldest statements are sometimes spoken in whispers, the loudest explosions are sometimes the ones we hear deep in the cavity of our own heart. At times it takes observing the workings of the earth’s tiniest creatures to understand the entire universe. Devendra Banhart’s art, musically and visually, is like this.

“Somehow, some way, everyone’s gotta make a little marking, so to speak, even if it’s a little marking that says ‘I’m not making any markings!’”

Left: Stil, oil on paper, Modena, 2014.
Right: The Three Secrets of Fatima, ink on paper, NYC, 2003.


“Art is a necessity, not just for me, but for everyone.”


I noticed his tattoos. And then I couldn’t stop noticing. Faint drifting trails of ink looping fingers and forearms in vaguely irregular configurations, like the illustrations you might find on a cave wall drawn by some forgotten civilisation. Watching his dancing gestures animate the ink on his skin throughout our time together is what compelled me to go looking for his art.

Left: After “Haru Spring” by Harold Budd, ink on paper, NYC, 2014.
Right: Self-Portrait, ink on paper, South America, 2013.

His illustrations, both with paint and pencil, are just like his tattoos: elfin and intricate, kooky in a way, but never quaint. His unearthly forms are exact in their off-centredness, fluid but precise. There’s a floating quality to his hand-drawn shapes; tiny wonders fluttering over faded pages with supernal lightness. They’re works of gentle power and emergent complexity. They strike slowly – the longer you look the more you will see.

“Imagine that imagination is a choice that only requires being made.”

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