Thomas Rentmeister

Thomas Rentmeister

Untitled, 2011, Penaten baby cream on laminated chipboard, 350 x 1100 x 16 cm

Could you tell me about some of your current projects?
I just finished a major solo show at the Städtische Galerie Delmenhorst. The main installation is a geometric steel structure, which sprawls through several rooms of the exhibition space. A part of it is formed like a loft bed with only a tiny little space between the levels. Of course, these days, this makes you think of the political refugee issue in Europe, but the exhibition was planned far before this subject was in the media every day. The installation in fact is a reference to the history of the old villa in Delmenhorst called ‘Haus Coburg’, which hosts the Städtische Galerie and before that served as a small hospital.

Furthermore, I am taking part in two group shows in Brazil. One is called ‘CRU’ and is hosted by the CCBB in Brasilia. It’s a show about food and I made a huge installation with potato chips in an architectural context.

The second show, called ‘Zeitgeist Berlin’ (contemporary Berlin artists), starts at the end of September, also at the CCBB, but in Belo Horizonte. It actually has nothing to do with the other show in Brasilia. In Belo Horizonte I will show a huge installation, an oblong rectangle consisting of long-life milk cartons. Using long-life milk for an art work and arranging the cartons in a serial way is not only an ironic comment on Minimalism but also on the issue of durability of art in general. Nonetheless the ugliness of the consumer product with its pragmatic design and cheap layout turns into an attractive elegancy when arranged in a grid. Despite the fact that each container is nearly identical, there exist small inconsistencies that serve to animate the grid. This is exactly, what I meant when I spoke of impureness of the cubic shapes in my work.

Another installation – this time not with milk cartons by but with Tetrapacks containing long-life cocoa liquid – I will make in December at the occasion of the group exhibition ‘Streamlines’ (curated by Koyo Kouoh) at the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg.

Untitled (version 2), 2014, refrigerators, polyurethane foam, Penaten baby cream, Styrofoam, plastic, wood, wire, chocolate biscuits, Nutella, 175 x 440 x 220 cm

Santo*, 2003, refrigerators, Penaten baby cream, 340 x 530 x 240 cm

Untitled, 2002, wooden panels, 350 x 870 cm

What are some specific themes that you get inspired by or work with mostly? Do you have specific questions that drive your work?
My artistic production very often peaks into a very simple form, which is either chaotic or thoroughly structured. It oscillates between a hygienic and a dingy occurrence, between high-tech and archaism. Actually my main interest is the human body and its interaction with technology and nature, although there are no figurative elements in my work.

Untitled, 2013, cardboard, wood, glass, 107 x 86 x 4,5 cm

untitled, 2002, perspex, white underwear, 195 x 295 x 95 cm

Whiteware, 2002, refrigerators, Penaten baby cream, 85 x 370 x 185 cm

What are some of the possibilities or limitations of the materials you choose?
The materials are very often not made for the purpose I use them for and actually I sometimes work against their nature. These limitations make the artwork vulnerable and at the same time attractive.

1989, 1989 Super 8 film transferred to VHS video 3 minutes edition of 10

Untitled, 1985, multiple sockets dimensions variable

Untitled, 2010, Styrofoam, Nutella, 365 x 1392 x 11 cm

In contrast you also have a few installations that seem (even) more abstract, like Muda, 2011, how do you think around these forms?
I’m not completely sure what you mean by ‘even more abstract’ compared to the ‘geometric shapes’ in your first question, because what could be more abstract than a cube? ‘Muda’ is a very comprehensive work, which gathers a lot of different ways of approach.

In the foreground: untitled, 1994, polyester resin,untitled, 1985 multiple sockets dimensions variable 38 x 160 x 149 cm

Untitled, 2012, refrigerator shelves, cable ties, 190 x 210 x 210 cm

I noticed a lot of your works have cubic or geometric shapes, what draws you to work with these formations? 
Indeed, a number of my works are formed like cubes and some remind you of other geometric forms, but most of them have either biomorphic shapes like the polyester sculptures or are amorphous, like the ones that are made of Nutella or Penaten baby cream. Even the cubes have an either perforated or weak structure. Their geometry is impure, but still – probably it serves as a frame for the basically unformed character of my oeuvre as a whole.

Untitled, 2008, polyester resin, 28 x 200 x 102 cm

Has your expression changed over time for instance? Have you always worked with more abstract forms?
The biggest change my work went through was around 2000, when I stopped working exclusively on the series of polyester sculptures, on which I had focused during the nineties. Especially in my show called ‘brown’ at the Kölnischer Kunstverein in 2001 I opened up my style of making art by trying out all kinds of different materials and using them predominantly for site-specific installations instead of making autonomous sculptures.

Untitled, 1988, reflective foil on aluminium, 120 x 160 x 10 cm

Buchecke, 2004, wallpaper pattern book, Penaten baby creme, 46 x 47 x 11 cm

Muda (Perth version), 2012, various materials, approx. 500 x 1000 x 580 cm

I have seen that you use specific materials multiple times, what inspired you to work with Nutella, baby cream, underwear and details from refrigerators?
The thread of my work you are referring to started in 2002 with an installation called ‘whiteware’: a group of 20 used refrigerators, which were arranged in a rectangular way with Penaten baby cream filling out all the cracks and gaps between them. Also their handles, grids and even their dents and other irregularities were evened out with the cream. This made the ensemble seem like a monolithic dirty whitish geometric structure. The work is about the range of color around the shades that white can have. It inspired me to all the further installations using whitish things and materials like cream or powder and finally culminated in ‘Muda’ as an orgy of white.



Interview by Maria Bjornsdotter


Courtesy of the Artist
Thomas Rentmeister


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