Thomas Bauer finished his studies successfully at Folkwang University of the Arts in 2012 (judged by professor Jörg Eberhard and Claudius Lazzeroni). He works as an artist in Aachen.
To understand the way Thomas Bauer works and the conceptual idea behind his seperate series: The separate series of figurative, conceptual and abstract works are each based on an experimental phase in the atelier. Haphazardly and without planning, different materials are put together, on a trial basis, leading to a condensed experimental arrangement which then initiates a new series. It thus all starts by coincidence, resulting in some kind of formulaic language governed by the initial arrangement and not necessarily in accordance with the preceding or following unit. This excludes predefined approaches and systematically denies any kind of determination from the very beginning. The various and heterogeneous forms of representation preclude a clear categorization.
In this new series – minus12Grad – Thomas Bauer puts special emphasis on his works' rough materiality. Recycled bubble packs, plastic foil with typography, duct tape of different colours, gaffer tape, fragments of cartons and scraps of paper are the basis of his atmospheric scenarios. Using charcoal, spray, oil and acrylic paint, his figures and objects are blended into coats of abstract layers. Now in a painterly way, then in a graphical way, the figures merge with the canvas. With a hint of decay and violence, expressing uncomfortable loneliness and monotonous action, the composition is embedded in the profane material of everyday life. Looking at the protagonists in isolation may offer different approaches to interpretation. Yet there is no access to any linear narration, which is deliberately deconstructed through the disruptive force of the collage, with its cut-up canvas shreds, overpainted layers and graphic fragments. The painterly means, as well as the traces of the painting process itself, dominate the scene and offer different ways of perception. Both the layers being created in different ways and the intermingling of various colour structures lead to a visual and sensual experience of the elements depicted. By adding a temperature to his series' title, Thomas Bauer points at his own sensual perception of his paintings. Impression of depth is not only created via the rules of perspective but also through layering coats of material and colour. The figures suggest certain movements and provide fixed points within the abstractly constructed environment of the frame. Coloured tapes working like a system of guiding lines and accentuating contrary directions beyond the limit of the canvas are part of the deliberate composition. Yet the opposingly formal tendencies occurring in the artist's paintings are always well-balanced and result in a cleverly devised composition.
Text: Nicole Thelen M.A. Translation: Marc Drosson
They are atmospheric scenarios, most of them showing only one figure painted realistically. The title “minus12Grad” marks a temperature which is clearly associated with the image of Christ as a tormented creature, just as the other figures obviously not living in the Land of Smiles, being extremely sad, with grotesque faces and expressions of agony. It is a depressing mixture of violence, isolation, monotony, exhaustion and decay; not even the garden gnome and the caravan breathe any chance of escaping for better. Thomas Bauer did not intend for an explicit explanation or set interpretation of his works – as with most of his oeuvre, they are open to association and contemplation. All these figures marked by life are combined with a nearly contaminated environment. An overload of painted, graphic, abstract and informal layers, graffiti-like sprayed linear forms of lacquer, scratched colour surfaces, overpaintings and profane applications of various material evokes a feeling of utter chaos. Bauer integrates old newspapers, plastic foil with typography, recycled bubble packs, duct tape of various colours, gaffer tape, fragments of cartons and scraps of paper. Even the colourful tapes are part of his cleverly devised “Gesamtkunstwerk” – the synthesis of his art – working as a complex system of guiding lines accentuating contrary directions beyond the limit of the canvas. Thomas Bauer stresses that idea in his exhibition “Bleib mir vom Leib” by arranging his paintings as a 360-degree spatial experience and spontaneously filling the spaces between the canvasses with newspapers and plastic foil, sticking them to the wall and spraying them, decorating them further in one way or the other, adding crumpled paper as plastic ornaments to the corners and marking opposing directions with masking paper. Text: Carsten Roth
With 15 basic modules – interchangeable canvases loosely based on the Lego or Memory principle – Thomas Bauer creates an adjustable series of images. As many as 100 variations are possible, depending on whether he combines two-, three- or even tenfold series. Each canvas is carefully composed to guarantee that the combination of the base module with others results in a completely new image with its own interpretation. Art has never seen such flexibility, an unrestricted narration in a non-linear dramaturgy, offering the chance to jump from one idea to another, open to association, without drifting into arbitrariness. Bauer knows which motives to combine – those catching his eye: dynamic urban motives from the internet, faces, fragments of animals and other figures. He does not paint fixed ideas, but rather a multimedia mixture of styles and motifs, loosely assembled from the market of postmodern possibilities. The same liberty can be seen in his painting style: expressive, graphically linear, plastic and cubic – it always depends on how the architectural design complies with machinery, serpent heads or anthropomorphous shapes. Medusas of Greek mythology appear, as do manga and European painting. The result is by no means contradictory, but rather an exciting combination of elements taken from a giant pool of dynamic ideas. In the world of economy, the principle of flexibility has long been established. Aiming at efficiency and maximizing profit as quickly as possible here, Bauer's art turns that idea upside down; with each new combination of modules, the process of painting is slowed, as the composition needs to be elaborated and well thought-out. Otherwise, it leads to a conceptual deadlock and the adjustable image drifts into pointlessness. K29, Ricarda Fox, Kreuzeskirchstraße 29, Text: Christiane Dressler - 2012/03 www.ruhrkunst.com Copyright Galerienkooperation Christiane Dressler/Torsten Obrist
This series resembles a modular system consisting of eighteen canvases of the same height, but each of a different width. The images can be arranged in various ways. To guarantee fluid transitions between the series' works for each re-arrangement, they had to be painted carefully by considering their formal composition as well as motives and colours. By placing the single modules next to each other, a panoramic image of up to eleven meters can be created, with up to 100 variations of content. Depending on the width of the walls on which these arrangements are displayed, even smaller combinations of four, three or two elements can be installed. In his diploma thesis published in 2013 as a book entitled “Malerei im Kompatibilitätsmodus” (“Paintings in Compatibility Mode”), Thomas Bauer has analysed his experiment's influence on formal aspects of imagery, and also with regard to content and colour. In addition, he has examined the composition's narrative structure, and finally has questioned the dramaturgy and logic behind his open system. Text: Carsten Roth - Translation: Marc Drosson
Competing layers of lines turn into movement; physical shapes are filleted and merge with the surface. The pictorial means are reduced to the interaction of two colours, coal and the translucent white of the canvas. As a consequence, the stark contrast creating a high level of graphic abstraction opens various ways of interpreting the scenarios presented. The expressiveness of my works is a result of quick painting, which contrasts the organically imperfect shapes with the clinical white of the canvas. The figurative elements remain cumbersome – they evade anatomical detail and explicitness. They remain irreconcilable.
A completely different impression is conveyed in the series “unverträglich” of 2014, exhibited in the medium-sized basement room. In contrast to the dark series “minus12Grad” and due to the white canvas background shared by all the paintings, it literally comes to light as a bright and rather harmonious sequence. On ostensibly immaterial surfaces, red, turquoise and black lines sketching the fragmented shapes of the figures meet. Thomas Bauer explains the series and its title: “Competing layers of lines turn into movement; physical shapes are filleted and merge with the surface. The pictorial means are reduced to the interaction of two colours, coal and the translucent white of the canvas. As a consequence, the stark contrast creating a high level of graphic abstraction opens various ways of interpreting the scenarios presented. The expressiveness of my works is a result of quick painting, which contrasts the organically imperfect shapes with the clinical white of the canvas. The figurative elements remain cumbersome – they evade anatomical detail and explicitness. They remain irreconcilable.” The lucid impression of the highly homogeneous sequence – considering content, form and colour – is deliberately turned into a new direction by the artist's spatial installation, adding new facets to both the series' title “unverträglich” and the exhibition’s title “Bleib mir vom Leib”. In the middle of the room, he has placed the naked torso of a doll on a garbage bag rack. Somewhere on the floor, the doll's arm indicates that somebody did not follow the dictum “Bleib mir vom Leib”. In combination with the glaring neon lights, the room is radiant, the paintings on the walls appearing like anatomical wall charts or radiographs. This creates an atmosphere of sterility, reminding one of a surgery room or an abortion clinic, organ trafficking or the laboratory of Dr. Frankenstein. Text: Carsten Roth - Translation: Marc Drosson
Thomas Bauer's current series is called “Zeichen und Wunder” and a selection can be seen in the big gallery on the basement floor. The title is based on the fact that objects such as a traffic sign, a flower pot, a human set of teeth, a pig labelled with the butchery trade's classification or – taken from Wilhelm Busch's Max und Moritz – the Widow Bolte's chicken, insidiously entangled and doomed to death, are depicted but yet – with the exception of another pot plant – not in a plastic, three-dimensional way but rather as symbolic and schematic sketches reminiscent of those found in schoolbooks. These are then combined with informal colours, geometric zigzag lines and grid-like structures finding their precursors in constructivism and op-art. According to Thomas Bauer, who admits to have an aversion towards an exaggerated (mis-)understanding of order, this series is about order and disorder or order vs. chaos, respectively. Thus, the geometrically well-structured order of a painted QR code is disrupted by haphazardly drawn pencil strokes and numbers. This series' subjects are actually irrelevant. Representational figures are in no way more important than the paintings' abstract elements, as the artist aims at their relationship and the tension between both. He has turned the single images into one huge installation filling the room. Paintings with similar patterns and substance melt into a stage-like complex scene. Even traces of Arte Povera can be found here: an “emergency exit” sign and another sign indicating the location of a fire extinguisher, a small kilim and an artificial ficus, tape, a dash of white confetti and the old chair found in the workshop of the Bochumer Kulturrat – of utmost importance for the artist to rest and contemplate in the single rooms while conceptualizing his art. Not least of all, the aesthetics of the disconcertingly blurred edges of paintings and textiles remind one of the camouflage of World War I battleships. To protect the British merchant fleet from German submarine attacks, the painter Norman Wilkinson (1878–1971) had the idea of making the ships nearly invisible and thus confusing the enemy. By using different designs of various colours, haphazardly or geometrically drawn, often with zebra-like patterns, their shapes were blurred and broken like in an optical illusion. The British Admiralty Board embraced the artist's idea, made him head of a special naval camouflage unit which was set up in the Royal Academy of Arts' basement atelier and passed a bill to have all merchant ships, as well as those battleships, especially exposed in this way. Until the end of the war, about 4400 ships of the Royal Navy were given that camouflage paint. Consequently, Wilkinson, as the inventor of “dazzle camouflage,” “dazzle painting” or “razzle dazzle” (mind the puns in here), went down in the history of art. Statistically speaking, even if there is no proof of advantage in applying these artistic ideas to warfare, it certainly did no harm either. Text: Carsten Roth - Translation: Marc Drosson