Romanian-born twins Gert and Uwe Tobias (b. 1973), make collaborative woodcuts, sculptures, collages and drawings. Having moved to Germany in 1985, they studied in Braunschweig and live and work in Cologne. The influence of communist era style combines in their work with the legacies of European folklore and German post-war painting.
The Tobias brothers’ giant woodcuts and wall paintings draw on modernist geometric abstraction; but they combine line, shape, colour and typography with the narrative images and patterns of folk art, using decorative motifs such as flowers, plants, patterns, embroidery and domestic objects.
Their collages are like stage sets on which splashes of pigment and found images of animals or humans are assembled in a performance. Playfulness combines with violence as body parts are fragmented across the picture surface. Their figures also metamorphose into plants or birds; macabre yet innocent, they lend a surreal dimension to the Tobias’ imagery. The artists also use the antiquated aesthetic of the typewriter to create intense drawings that spike the eye.
This specially conceived installation also includes ceramics. They take mass produced crockery and add ceramic extrusions and coloured glazes turning an ordinary plate or vase into an expressionistic sculpture. Boundaries between craft and fine art, abstract concept and unconscious fantasy, modernity and tradition, dissolve.
The works of art in this exhibition bring together all these diverse media. Visually, they combine the lines, shapes and block colours of geometric abstraction with narratives reminiscent of Surrealism and patterns drawn from ornamentation and folk art.
Gert and Uwe Tobias’ woodcuts and wall-designs display a strong interest in the graphics of the early 20th century, including the experimental typography of Jan Tschichold or the exhibition designs of El Lissitzky, alongside an exploration of folkloric ornamentation and floral patterns as precursors of abstraction. Such Modernist references are juxtaposed with fragmented shapes and characters, spilling from woodcut and canvas into ceramics and the exhibition space, allowing viewers to immerse themselves in subversive, carnevalesque narratives.
Their diverse use of media is tied together with a site-specific wall-design, which in their words attempts ‘to create a parity between the exhibition spaces. This also includes the invitation woodcut, thereby extending the exhibition into the periphery of the institution.’
Employing different media and artistic traditions, Gert and Uwe Tobias dissolve boundaries between craft and fine art, abstract concept and unconscious fantasy, and modernity and tradition.
The exhibition is made in partnership with The Gallery at Windsor, Vero Beach, Florida, USA.