Tina Teufel'

Thomas Riess. I am I am not

With his paintings, collages and films Thomas Riess tells stories. The main actor in his narrations is time. It appears in differentiated ways in the various media the artist uses; what they have in common is that they record time in a dynamic moment. Riess‘ collages turn into living narration. Similar to William Kentridge, his animated films allow us to take part in the development process, illustrating what happens to memories and events in our brains: In numerous photographically documented working steps he superimposes layer after layer on photos, newspaper and magazine clippings, colour layers, and particularly on photographic examinations of his own portrait which he arranges, overlays, reinterprets and then deletes, first partially, then completely. Thomas Riess transfers procedures that are anchored in a static medium into a dynamic form again, which can fool our perception. Like in our memories, often only fragments of collaged images remain existent for a certain period of time; they are, to an extent, overlaid by new impressions – in this case collage elements – which sometimes in the beginning even allow the original to shine through, but mostly they cover it, remove it from the context and release it, mixed with new elements, for further associations. He narrates in pictures, by means of association, allowing to follow his creative thinking process, thwarting a reasonable chronological examination of the change process of his own person, but leaving the viewer ample space both for personal interpretation as well as for mental extrapolations within everyone of us. For Thomas Riess it is important that the selection of the chronological sequence does not form a constant, but basically an arbitrary sequence of a greater whole. The collage positioned next to the animation film thus constitutes a status quo which is not necessarily subject to finality. Traces of the rhythmic development can be discerned behind the static work. Without the film, an important aspect of the work remains hidden, like many things in the human existence stay beneath the surface, beyond reality and appearances, and (earlier) facets of one's own self remain unknown.

Thomas Riess uses photographic images also in his paintings. Although the subject of his paintings, videos, collages and drawings clearly is, in one way or the other, the human being, his approach is a challenge for the viewers in a conceptual and material way. Especially the paintings made of correction tape and acrylics prompt an examination of one's own perception and its evolution within the development of perpetually new visual media and image qualities, as well as the emotions evoked by his works. The correction tape, usually used to delete or to blot out something that is assumed to be incorrect by covering it, is here used to make it visible. Its white colour rises from the homogenous black of the painted base and background. The placing of the correction tape onto the base, perceived as an image interference, evokes the idea of an analog satellite image transmission, seemingly antiquated in the age of high-definition. No matter if it is the deep sea diver, the astronaut, an anonymous homeless person or – like here – a person in a protective suit: The figures rather resemble apparitions than physically real persons; they are without any connection to concrete surroundings, thrown back onto themselves. This removal from a causal context also applies to the collages of the artist and the films created during the process of making them. In all the media his originals are placed in a new context by the artistic intervention of drawing or painting and deleted again by overpainting – the human being creates his/her own story(ies) and documents time as his/her constant companion.

Tina Teufel (Curator Museum der Moderne Salzburg)