Virtual Walk Through All Your Secrets
Cassina Projects is pleased to announce ‘All your secrets’, Gert & Uwe Tobias’(*1973) first solo exhibition with the gallery. Ten years after their debut show in Italy held at Collezione Maramotti, the Cologne-based twins unveil a selection of new works including woodcuts, paintings on paper and ceramics alongside representative canvasses previously on display at Recklinghausen Kunsthalle.
Drawing on the artists typically enigmatic language, ‘All your Secrets’ projects a sense of metamorphic state that embraces the interplay of lyrical abstraction and whimsical figuration across the gallery two floors.
Upon entering the exhibition space, black walls and grave compositions conjure an obscure tone amplified by gridded motifs which from the two canvasses on display at the front extend onto the edges of the walls and the columns echoing the oppressive cage-like framework of the main door and the window. Yet rigor and darkness are only short-lived inputs as the juxtaposition of coloured sfumato woodcuts placed beyond the open enclosure mitigates the tension and reveals a gateway to more promising realms. Bizarre figures of unidentified nature crop up as if emerging from a dream. Inhabitants of an otherworldly hemisphere and creatures of our fecund subconscious at once, whether these hybrids live an undefined time and space post-metamorphosis or are undergoing the mutation process before our eyes, the enigma can’t be unravelled.
On first floor, the narrative turns evanescent as the transition from figuration to abstraction plays out. Ethereal woodcuts and small size acrylics on paper reminiscent of clouded skies speak of the impermanent and the ephemeral. Their aqueous contours evoke the infinity of celestial atmospheres and the latent volatility of any state of mind. Glimmers of Romantic sublime pervade the room completing the journey of ascension.
Originally from rural Romania but based in Cologne (Germany) since young age, the Tobias Brothers combine the profound inspiration from their native Transylvania - as its topical myths provide contextual framework to their practice – with the influence of Germanic culture. Theirs is an investigation into the ramifications of cultural identity which waves together folkloric legend and archaic tropes with elements of contemporary visual culture and historical associations. Influences of Symbolism, Surrealism and Abstract Modernism are essential throughout their work as it establishes with art history an ongoing circular dialogue reinterpreting traditional techniques and referencing styles from the past.
In this respect, their distinctive use of woodcut takes on an emblematic significance. Rather than carving into a wooden block, they cut clean individual shapes out of plywood and use a roller to apply paint, at last transferring the color onto the canvas with their hands and feet. Reaffirming the long tradition of the oldest printing method and revisiting it in a contemporary key, Gert & Uwe Tobias also evidence the direct nexus across time between ancient printing solutions and today’s relentless dissemination of images and saturating impact brought along by pop culture. Rejecting any hierarchical distinction between fine art and craft, hand-made and processed, archaic and post-modern, rationale and subconscious, Gert & Uwe Tobias’ anachronistic, occult contexts allegorize the fluctuating, heterogenous essence of the contemporary experience.
Wolkenstudie (Albrecht Albrecht), 2020 Colored woodcut on canvas
Wolkenstudie (Hoch Andy), 2020 Colored woodcut on canvas
Untitled, 2020 Glazed ceramic
Wolkenstudie (Albrecht Albrecht), 2020 Colored woodcut on canvas
Adopting a typically collaborative approach to their creative process and employing a broad range of traditional and contemporary artistic media including woodcut, painting, drawing, collage, ceramic and installation, Gert and Uwe Tobias investigate the ramification of cultural identity as they conjure up an enigmatic, otherworldly imagery where narratives of figurative art and geometric abstraction braid together.
Originally from rural Romania but based in Koln (Germany) ever since leaving their home country at twelve years of age, the Tobias Brothers combine the profound inspiration from their native Transylvania - as its topical myths provide contextual framework to their practice – with the influence of Germanic culture. Folkloric legend, carnivalesque figures and archaic elements are incorporated into a polymorphous visual language which simultaneously embraces pop culture with a sensitive eye towards its potential to distort reality. Their iconic vocabulary integrates a nebulous amalgam of references where elements of Constructivism, Surrealism and Symbolism coexist with Medieval iconography and vernacular motifs morphing into a fairy tale universe of hybrid creatures in a seemingly constant metamorphic state.
Their iconic woodcuts unlock an array of historical associations as the Tobias appropriate and reinterpret in a contemporary key the oldest printing method which artists have been using in Europe and East Asia since ancient. Rather than carving into a wooden block, they cut clean individual shapes out of plywood and use a roller to apply printing ink, and use their hands or feet to layer the color onto the canvas. Bold colors and patterns characterize the uncanny choreography of ghoulish appearances that defy immediate identification as the blending of disparate forms – reminiscent of the animal, the human, the floral, the typographical, the architectural – composes a rich pictorial lexicon swaying between portraiture and still life.
Hand made ceramic sculptures and small-scale works on paper further emphasize the Tobias’ quirky visual dialect. The ceramics embody bizarre creatures with vaguely human lineaments and geometric bodies culminating with round overly detailed heads dripping vivid pigments of color. Allusions to pop culture and to the incessant stream of images which overloads our society emerge consistently from the compositions on paper – collages and typewriting drawings -. The juxtaposition of images and cut-outs from magazines and newspapers with lushly painted backgrounds recalls surreal ambiences as narrative fades into a fragmented obscure indefiniteness.
Rejecting any hierarchical distinction between fine art and craft, hand-made and processed, archaic and post-modern, rationale and subconscious, Gert & Uwe Tobias’ anachronistic, occult contexts allegorize the fluctuating, heterogenous essence of the contemporary experience.
Gert & Uwe Tobias (b.1973 in Kronstadt, Brasov, Romania) live and work in Koln, Germany. They graduated from the Hochschule für Bildende Kunste, Braunschweig under Walter Dahn in 2002. Their work has been exhibited in international institutions among which the Kunsthalle Recklinghausen, Germany (2018); Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany; Graphische Staatliche Sammlung, Munich, Germany (2016); Whitechapel, London, UK (2013); Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, Italy (2009) Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany (2008); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY USA (2007); UCLA, Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA USA (2006). Public Collections include Collezione Maramotti, Max Mara, Reggio Emilia, Italy; MoMa, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY USA; SFMOMA, San Francisco, USA; UCLA, Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA USA; Kunstmuseum Bonn, Bonn, Germany; FRAC Auvergne, Clermont Ferrand, France; Sammlung Goetz, Munchen, Germany; Sprengel Museum, Hanover, Germany; Graphische Staatliche Sammlung, München, Germany.