28 08 2016 > 12 02 2017
Thorsten Brinkmann (°1971, Herne, DE) calls himself a series collector. The warehouse of his studio houses the most diverse objects, which he has found at flea markets, in thrift shops, on the street, at the garbage dump... These objets trouvés are part of the bourgeois living culture. He uses them to show how people relate to the objects that surround them today in a humorous way. Objects define our identity and help shape our culture, so what belongs to us is of great importance. We shape the objects that surround us and they in turn shape us. Brinkmann does not select the objects he uses solely on the basis of their colour, structure or shape. They have an age limit: they must not be too new and must tell a story. The traces of the use of objects that are already exhausted are interesting because of their painterly character. He combines objects from different periods in one work, so that several time levels overlap and the work bears a certain form of timelessness.
Brinkmann is always looking for ways to combine the objects he collects with his own body. For example, he combines the objects with casts of his body parts, or integrates them in the portraits that he incorporates in his installations. Coincidence also plays a major role in the selection process. Brinkmann playfully selects and combines the objects in his studio. This process can be compared, as it were, with the construction of a collage. The results are always surprising and testify to a great imagination. The results of this process take different forms.
Brinkmann plays with photography, sculpture, three-dimensional installations and video art. The photos that he incorporates in his installations are often self-portraits or still lives and refer to art history. Brinkmann is inspired by the old masters of the Renaissance. The colours, incidence of light, structures and shapes he uses are copied from Diego Velázquez, Pieter Claesz and Antoon Van Dyck. They refer to the symbolic colors that were used in their paintings to indicate the social position of the sitter. The contrast that Brinkmann uses and his eye for detail also contribute to the picturesque aesthetics of these images. The artist paints with photographic means. To the Belgian eye, the link with the portraits of Jan van Eyck is immediately obvious. Brinkmann thus responds to our collective image memory. Not only the old masters know how to inspire Brinkmann, the stars of modern media culture and contemporary art have also left their mark. The figures in Brinkmann's portraits are reminiscent of the heroes from the films of Monty Python, the bizarre creations of Leigh Bowery and the photographs of Cindy Sherman. These references also emerge in the titles of his works. Titles such as Porandi, Hoppetasse Mondrial and Mirobora playfully refer to famous painters from the 20th century.
However, Brinkmann's portraits differ greatly from those we know from the painterly tradition in one respect: the artist uses the objects to make himself unrecognizable. His face is always obscured by a bucket or other utensil. The object that hides his face acts as a kind of mask. Even though we cannot read the expression from his face, according to Brinkmann the objects just as well express something, they function as a kind of prosthesis for expression. This has an alienating effect on the viewer. Brinkmann wants to keep his work and his persona separate from each other and in this way aligns his body with the objects he processes. Interestingly, as a result of this anonymity, his self-portraits are interpreted differently in each culture. Brinkmann thus opens up a path to multiple interpretations. In the United States his portraits are often associated with fear and terror, while in countries such as Japan and China they are associated with sadomasochism. When the artist was a guest in Nigeria, his photos were associated with the magic of voodoo rituals. In this way Brinkmann turns his own body into a mirror and offers the viewer the opportunity to view himself from a different perspective. He invites us to dwell on what we see and to reflect on the objects that play a role in our daily lives.