Born in 1967, German artist Tomma Abts ranks among the outstanding female painters of her generation. She was awarded the Turner Prize in 2006, and her work has featured in solo exhibitions at such renowned institutions as Kunsthalle Basel, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. The show at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf
is the London-based artist's first solo exhibition at an institution in the Rhineland, where she is teaching since summer 2010, having taken up a professorship at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf.
A slow and rigorous production process is a distinguishing feature of Tomma Abts' work. Although she follows a fixed method in her painting, applying purely geometrical shapes to a classic 48 x 38 cm portrait format in layer after layer of oil and acrylic paint, her painting is far removed from serial production. The individuality of each of her pieces, which all have rare first names as titles, can, instead, be attributed to a production process where each image is shaped by continual questioning, and by constant construction and deconstruction. The rich, often muted colour tones lend each work its own mood, which draws the beholder into a world of intimate imagery. Only on closer inspection do the underlying layers peek through the surface here and there, revealing faint patterns and isolated lines, and casting Abts' work as a reflection on the painting process itself.
The intensity of this artistic process is reflected in Abts' exhibitions, which present each of her works as an individual, coherent image. The show, curated by Gregor Jansen and Magdalena Holzhey, presents an incisive selection of ten canvases in the Kunsthalle's main hall. The works range from older pieces, to works that have never been shown before, to recently produced pictures. For the first time ever, Abts' paintings will be accompanied by a series of small, previously barely known drawings that she has created over many years alongside her paintings in order to work out the lines, shapes and spatial relationships within her delicate compositions.
An artist's book featuring views of the exhibition space and a collection of texts with contributions by Gregor Jansen and Magdalena Holzhey is published by Walther König Buchhandlung to accompany the exhibition.