Gert & Uwe Tobias: An Ocean in Between the Waves

Gert & Uwe Tobias: An Ocean in Between the Waves


October 11, 2023
Gert & Uwe Tobias
An Ocean in Between the Waves
October 14–November 11, 2023
Opening: October 14, 11am–8pm
44 rue Quicampoix
75004 Paris
Hours: Tuesday–Saturday 11am–7pm

T +33 9 79 26 16 38
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“No ideas but in things” declared the American poet William Carlos Williams (1883–1963). No matter how one defines ideas, no matter how they are expressed: shapes, figures, volumes, languages, motifs, points, lines, colors, lights… Every oeuvre by the artists Gert & Uwe Tobias stems from this register: there is not an idea, nor a construction, nor a space that is not embodied by juxtaposed, superimposed and/or amalgamated things, even if these things finally end up incarnated as characters, animals, artefacts or other more or less identifiable elements… In this way, they belong neither to our own tangible reality nor to any other established universe, yet still they appear perfectly natural, quite plausible and even universal: they are of the order of myths, legends or oral narratives, that have been transmitted or shared and that the oeuvre renders perceptible through the multiple metamorphoses they undergo. And the more bewildering they might appear, the more we are, on the contrary, enchanted or even seduced, almost carried away by them, along the less travelled pathways these things suggest to us. At the heart of Gert & Uwe Tobias’s oeuvre, there are no questions and equally no answers: everything is maintained in a meticulously nurtured space where nothing is resolved, and from which sparkling formulations emerge, of a poetic continent anchored in the deepest recesses of those collected narratives that have fertilized the most ancestral of thoughts, stories and representations. We are nowhere here, yet paradoxically everywhere. We are both here and there, where things are allowed to exist, flourish and gleam.

Born in Transylvania, Romania in 1973, the twin brothers Gert & Uwe Tobias currently live in Cologne, Germany. Over the past twenty years, they have developed a four-handed body of work, whose conceptual and production process is unique from every point of view. Their artistic experiments have explored the fields of woodcut, typewriter drawing, gouache, watercolor, ceramics and lacemaking, yet their basic principles of production remain unchanged. With the passage of time and the development of their oeuvre, nourished by this continual back and forth between the various techniques and forms of expression, their lexical corpus of characters, animals, artifacts and other elements­—in other words, Gert & Uwe Tobias’s “things”—has become a veritable caravanserai, which they parade endlessly before their eyes. So today, we find them cutting out forms from their earlier canvases to explore other possible combinations. Thus, new shapes and figures have appeared, while others seem to disappear. It is true that Transylvania, their place of birth, is considered by some as the land of vampires. Notions of non-existence and existence, night and day, sleep and wakefulness, repulsion and fascination, constraint and pleasure, form and substance, all alternate naturally, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways.

A painting is not just a window on the world, or a mirror of the world that surrounds us. It embodies otherworldly realms we have never previously imagined. It lends shape and form to paradoxes we normally consider as unrepresentable. It makes journeys to the farthest reaches of the universe a clear possibility, it affirms the existence of alternative spaces. This is what the oeuvre of Gert & Uwe Tobias reveals to us: the power that our dreams, desires and wishes hold over our destinies. It is not so much a question of their magician-like powers, but rather one of their qualities as wise men, prophets or shamans, from that part of the world that only art or poetry allow us to reach.

Marc Donnadieu
Marc Donnadieu is an independent art critic, researcher and exhibition curator. He was curator in chief of Photo Élysée (Cantonal Museum of Photography, Lausanne, Switzerland) from 2017 through 2023, curator responsible for contemporary art at the LaM—Lille Metropole from 2010 to 2017 and director of the FRAC Haute-Normandie between 1999 and 2010.

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October 11, 2023

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