everywhere, but hovering
André Thomkins, (born 1930 in Lucerne, died 1985 in Berlin) numbers among the most interesting and multifaceted artistic positions of the postwar era. But outside his native country of Switzerland, his poetical, humorous creations with their joy in experimentation have been unjustifiably overshadowed by his artist friends such as Daniel Spoerri, George Brecht, Robert Filliou or Dieter Roth. In artistic circles, on the other hand, the two-time documenta participant has been highly esteemed for generations as an inspiring catalyst.
The oeuvre of André Thomkins cannot be fitted into simple art-historical classifications. Already early in his career, he is inspired by the artistic strategies of Dadaism, Surrealism, Situationism and Pittura Metafisica, as well as by Marcel Duchamp, Hans Arp, Max Ernst, Giorgio de Chirico and Paul Klee. His art is impelled by magic and parapsychology, just as by the klecksography of Justinus Kerner from the 19th century. All this supports his artistic practices, which correspond with contemporary tendencies. Thomkins, an artist working with images, objects and words, cultivated close friendships with the Nouveaux Réalistes as well as with artists of Fluxus and Concrete Poetry, without it being possible to assign his creative output to one of these tendencies.
Today Thomkins is known primarily for his outstanding drawings and watercolours. Impressive testimony to his abilities is offered by his drawings in ink and pencil, watercolours, oil paintings and prints as well as his works situated at the threshold to sculpture, by his creations out of enamel skins retrieved from cleaning solution, rollages and Permanentszenen, his paraphrases of artistic models, cityscapes, landscapes and dream scenes, his labyrinths and the strange, weightless hovering figure that is Thomkins’ alter ego.
Word- and Image-Artist
Yet Thomkins was not only an image-artist, but also an image- AND word-artist. His inventive handling of language in letter, word and sentence should accordingly be evaluated as coequal to his pictorial creations. He expresses himself in numerous palindromes and anagrams, in plays on words and verbal machines. Corresponding to the palindromes on the level of the picture are such creations as the hinges — mirrorings of delicate drawings according to the Rorschach principle. Resonantly associative titles are not only part of Thomkins’ verbal artisitic production; they also formulate a world for itself and amusingly expand the reading of his works in a subtle and profound manner.
The oeuvre of André Thomkins, however, is also characterised by the love of everyday materials such as rubber, newspaper photos, soil, coloured paper, found objects and foodstuffs. This love is particularly evident in his objects and collages. He used highly diverse materials to create works with intellectual depth and a playful, associative quality which were often far ahead of their time.
Moreover, collaborative works with artist friends (for example: Dieter Roth, Georg Brecht, Daniel Spoerri or Robert Filliou) belong to Thomkins’ field of experimentation along with theatrical set designs, art for construction projects and audio recordings.
Concept of an Art in a State of Flow
With regard to content and form, the works of André Thomkins cannot be brought into a chronologically linear sequence. Instead his creative production consists of shimmering, combinatory play which — from the beginning of the 1950s to the first half of the 1980s — is constantly varied, ended, renewed, complemented, revived, brought into reciprocal relation and continued in what is a constant flow and a permanent interweaving of themes and techniques. Brimming with energy, intelligence, playful lightness and humour, his works strive to restore openness to what was provisionally fixed in the work, and to avoid hierarchies. The small is as important as the large; the single is equal in value to the many. Throughout all times and media, Thomkins’ artistic approach is marked by the endeavour to avoid the rigidity of unambiguous definition and to allow alternatively designed worlds to coexist with actual reality. His artistic output seeks alternatives, variations and counter-proposals to exclusively logical thought; it expressly includes intuition and utopia as cognitive means.
With the Karl Gerstner Collection, the Weserburg Museum of Modern Art has access to an extraordinary set of works by the artist which, on the occasion of the exhibition, is being complemented by loans from private collections from Bremen, Berlin and Budapest as well as from the estate of the artist. In their entirety, the works on display offer extensive insights into all creative periods of André Thomkins.
Asked in 1969 about his favourite place and condition, Thomkins answered: ‘everywhere, but hovering’. The curator of the exhibition everywhere, but hovering at the Weserburg Museum for Modern Art is Janneke de Vries.