Gert & Uwe Tobias at Whitechapel Gallery
Walking around the Whitechapel Gallery, it seems spring has certainly arrived. Philippe Parreno, Rirkrit Tiravanija and other internationally renowned artists display an array of flower arrangements. Karl Blosseldt’s photographic plant portraits hang in abundance and now, brothers Gert and Uwe Tobias will exhibit their work: a collection that confronts nature and nurture, figuration and abstraction, and the traditions of eastern European folklore.
The Tobias brothers use recycled materials, applying collaged elements from found books to evoke feelings of disgust and anxiety, imitating somewhat the qualities that once came with Dada. Half a head floats in mid air as a leg protrudes from a dark, cylindrical object, while other decoupages present winged creatures missing either a body or a head.
However, an element of beauty is consistent throughout with a strong sense of the decorative intertwined in these montages. An elaborate wardrobe stands to the right of a woodcut, so large that it takes up half the space. A woman weaves while a strange creature looks on, rich patterns adorning his coat.
The gallery also features sketchbooks encased in glass boxes. A teapot lid placed on an open book of geometric patterns sees the textural qualities of craft juxtaposed with a more universal, anti-individualistic style of art. This is also present in the Tobias brothers’ new ceramic works: mounted on mass-produced crockery, their hand-crafted sculptures evolve from cubic bases to a body of twisted and sensual creations. They are drenched in fluorescent colour; pinks and oranges drip down into the cracks of these forms, while dead thistles point towards the ceiling. Intimidating, they look down, gargoyle-like, at the viewer.
The appropriation of Eastern European traditions with German modernism creates a disparate narrative, something that is hard to find today. Fairytale elements lead the viewer from regimented surroundings into another world with hybrid characters placed in a fusion of geometric form and bourgeois decoration. The vibrant flourishes of the show reflect the sensations of spring. Open throughout the season, this is an exhibition that’s not to be missed.
Gert & Uwe Tobias is at Whitechapel Gallery until 14th June 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.