Thomas Stimm

1948 (Vienna), lives and works in Vienna and Cologne

1968–74 Studied at Vienna Academy of Fine Arts under Max Weiler, whose assistant he was from 1974 to 1976. Thomas Stimm has been a member of the GUM group (L. Insam, J. Mende, Th. Stimm) since 1971. As of the 1980s, the artist also began to devote his attention to clay and ceramics. As of 1986 he began making clay flowers. Regarding the significance of the flower theme, the artist says: “In my work, the flower is something like a visualisation of unfolding (in the sense of development), a process that is tremendously important for us as human beings too. We often spend our whole life learning how to ‘open up’ in this way. This unhindered opening of such a fragile structure as a flower and the subsequent colourful blossoming is enormous.”

The objects he designs are man-high flower sculptures of ceramic or bronze or large-format canvases painted with trees. Oversized motifs distort familiar scales and put the viewer in different perspectives. The intense colouring and the reduction to elementary forms lend the works an intuitive power. Their immediacy and artistic originality is reminiscent of traditional folk art: “… I am not at all interested in the [high] cultures of the Christian Occident. I feel linked to the earlier cultures as if by a tunnel.”

In 1995 Stimm was appointed visiting professor at Bremen University of the Arts, and one year later (in 1996) he founded the artists’ group SOYLENT GREEN together with Uta Weber. In 1997 he began teaching at the Claremont School of Art in Perth/West Australia, since 2002 he has also been teaching at Frankfurt’s Städelschule. In 2004 the artist was awarded the Federal Chancellery Prize at the Salzburg Ceramic Prize. In 1983 he exhibited at the Vienna Secession and one year later at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2008, as part of the sculpture project “OUT SITE_01”, seventeen colourful giant flowers, blossoms and berries were on show outside the MUMOK in Vienna, introducing a hint of spring. This bouquet of flowers created an exciting contrast to the strict architecture of the museum.

The constant examination of natural subjects is characteristic of Stimm’s oeuvre. On the one hand he explores the alienation of modern society from nature and, on the other, he demonstrates how objects of nature are built up into objects of art. His works have been on show in Paris, London, Madrid, Holland and Los Angeles, among other places.