“Cumulus” is the name of a new art exhibit that opened today at K21 in Düsseldorf. It’s a large installation by Thomas Schütte, consisting of several clusters of huge balloons, all colorfully decorated with drawings and writing. The balloons are packed into shipping containers, which have been stacked to create a kind of artificial mountain.
For me, the most interesting thing about the exhibit is how it compares to some of the other art I’ve seen lately. Schütte’s piece is an entirely physical work; there is no video or media involved. And yet it would seem to be very much a part of today’s art world; as such it certainly fits in better than my own work does.
Here at FotoFest I am showing photographs from my series “Underwater New York,” which consists entirely of pictures taken from inside swimming pools and then printed on the same size paper as conventional photographs. It has been a struggle for me to explain what the point of this work is, because I myself don’t know that there really is one. This work has never been exhibited anywhere before, and it probably never will be again, at least not as long as I’m alive.
The second level of the art is a kind of geometric abstraction. The result is minimalist, but not in the sense of an absence of stimuli—in fact, it’s very much the opposite. Cumulus could be described as a super-abstraction, because it’s abstract to such an extreme that the results can be overwhelming.
Taken together, Schütte’s piece consists of a series of huge, sculptural forms in primary colors stacked one on top of the other, with no reference at all to the world outside themselves. Seen from the side, they are like a set of cubes; when you move around to get a different view, they look more like pillars or towers. In some ways these shapes recall the old notion of perspective—as if you were looking at them from different angles and distances—but there is nothing in nature that they resemble. They’re entirely invented.*
The third level is mathematical in nature. At first glance Cumulus appears to be simple and solid—it looks stable and permanent—but on closer inspection it becomes clear that what looks like a solid object is actually composed of layers, levels within levels without end. And those levels are full of holes, voids into which we might fall and never be heard from again.
In the early 2000s, Thomas Schütte started working on his “Cumulus” series. 19 paintings that depict clouds of different types and sizes. A project that took eight years to complete.
The painting Clouds (2004) is the fourth in the series. It is a cloud of cumulus clouds and it covers an area of over 100 square meters. The painting depicts the movement of the clouds: their transition from a light, almost white area at the bottom to a darker, more ominous mass at the top, just before they release their rain.
The idea of making 19 pictures depicting something as intangible as clouds seems a bit odd at first sight – but this is exactly what makes Schütte’s idea so brilliant: The artwork becomes not only about something as simple as clouds but about itself. The paintings are about painting. Their size, their materials and the way they were made all mirror the process of creating art itself.**
Giant air balloons dangle from the ceiling, standing on end to create a room-sized cloud of connected bubbles. The work is huge, expansive, and overwhelming.
The scale evokes the artist’s memory of his own early experiments with rubber balloons when he was a boy: “I remember being fascinated by their weight and size and wondering how they could be contained,” he recalls. “They seemed more like objects from outer space than toys.”
In Cumulus (2012), Schütte has brought that childhood interest to a new scale that challenges our imagination about what the boundaries between inside and outside can look like. It’s difficult to imagine how it could have been created any other way. But for a sculptor of Schütte’s caliber, one who has pushed the boundaries of sculpture for decades, it seems almost inevitable — even though he had never done anything in this scale before.
The exhibition is a beautiful experience. It is fascinating to see Thomas Schütte´s work in a museum context. The artist has presented 35 works in the hall, where dimensions, colors and materials are impressive. The enormous wall drawing “Stratum III”, which is 81 meter long and 8.2 meter high, invites the visitor to enter . In addition to paintings, drawings and wall drawings there are also wooden sculptures on display that are not shown in such a large format very often.
The artist Thomas Schütte (born 1949) is not a prophet of doom. But his powerful installations are about the end of something. The end of the world, perhaps, or at least of our way of life on Earth. The artist refers to the current condition of humanity with the term “anthropocene” (an epoch characterized by human influence). Schütte sees himself as an angel of death, and his works as prophetic warnings.
Toward what? In a world where everything is possible and nothing has meaning anymore, in which humankind has sacrificed its spiritual dimension for the sake of material wealth, what purpose does art serve? These are some of the questions posed by this exhibition.
Art is a complicated thing. It’s hard to say what makes a piece of art great, and even harder to create it. To help you understand better here are some tips on how to make your own great art.
These tips won’t work for everyone but they will give you a good start.
The first thing you need is inspiration. Inspiration is the spark that lights your fire and lets your mind run wild with ideas for your great art. The easiest way to get inspiration is by talking to other artists about their great art. You should try and always have someone to talk to when making your great art.
TIP: Don’t be afraid of criticism; everyone needs feedback so they can make their great art better!
Now that you have inspiration, the next thing you need is a plan. Planning is important because it helps you know what direction you will take with your great art and allows you to make a schedule for when you will complete it.
When making schedules though, don’t forget to take time off! We all need breaks so we can recharge our minds and come back fresh at the end of our creative process. Your mind will thank you if it gets more rest between working on your great art pieces!
Finally there is passion. Passion