Artist and Philosophy
"Paint what you actually see."
(freely adapted from Oskar Kokoschka)
What inner force impels you to paint?
An interview with Thomas Heller
- What inner force impels you to paint, Thomas Heller?
Painting is a means of self-expression for my “alter ego“. My inner self is projected outwards and thus rendered visible. In fact, it is a dialogue between my two selves. Painting is my way of communicating.
- Your work includes highly contrasting styles and style elements: the spectrum ranges from nudes to the abstract, from the surreal, the intangible, the symbolic right through to the palpable. What would you say is the connecting element?
The leitmotiv in all these variations is the act of drawing itself: the pursuit of the graphic, regardless of whether it is with a broad brush or a palette knife. The first stroke always reflects the first perspective, the initial emotional experience, no matter what the subject of the work or the style may be. I may perceive or experience things differently at second "glance"; accordingly, the second stroke is a further development of the first. And so it continues. This is then coupled with a type of "visual contemplation". The resulting creation is both seeking and vibrant; it subsequently takes on a tangible form and resonates on various levels. Therefore, it does not contain any "flaws", merely adjusted perspectives, which form part of the creative process. Naturally, like in real life, erasing any aspects (in other words, undoing them) is not allowed, or as Kokoschka put it, "Life is the art of drawing without an eraser."
- How do you view your artistic development – what were your most significant influences?
The expression of my artistic language continues to evolve steadily. Contrasts and poles both play a major role in this development process. My name Thomas means “twin“ in Aramaic - and, sure enough, two hearts beat in my breast, one rational, one emotional. These elements are the basic engine: if the interaction is sufficiently intense, it generates the irresistible urge to make the experience visible through the medium of painting. This urge only subsides when I have appreciated my self-dialogue and learned something new. I also focus on symbols, metaphors and words in the process. Incidentally, in my quest for artistic interpretation, Kokoschka's advice from his ’School of Seeing’ has been a defining influence, namely “Paint what you actually see“.
- What does color mean to you, how do you work with color?
Sometimes, the introduction of color adds the finishing touch to the fundamental tension created by the contrast between light and dark. Collectively, both trigger vibrations that I can actually sense physically while painting.
- Which painters do you regard as role models?
My greatest influences, particularly in terms of style and sheer force of expression, are Goya, Giacometti and Kokoschka.
- Is there any correlation between words, symbols and your artistic creativity?
The process starts with “intuitive“ painting and leads on to words and symbols. The title of a picture and additional concepts or aphorisms define one possible interpretation: the process has come full circle.
- Can you describe the creative process of a picture?
I have no standard sequence of stages for works on canvas. To start off with, I do the drawing directly on the canvas, or first on a sketch pad, then I transfer it. As the first creative, visible approach, a drawing unfailingly begins with the act of seeing - on as many different levels of consciousness as possible.