“TOMAK… That’s a hard-hitting artist’s alias resonating like the crisp sound of a slap. The artist, a well-known rebel figure of the Austrian art scene, likes to refer to it as his nom de guerre, perhaps because his work furiously and proudly crusades against the bourgeois codes that dominate the contemporary art world. Taking different forms, TOMAK’S art is forceful, affirmative and uncompromising. It’s a world in which the aesthetic experience is an instinctive force that must knock down any judgment shaped by socially accepted rules. For the “Posterboy of Antikunst,” it’s by this, as an anti-artist, that one can assert himself as a real artist. Based Istanbul caught up with a rebel with a cause.
Art is not about solutions – it isn’t science. Art is about how you approach a question.
As Gerald Matt, the former Director of the Kunsthalle Wien, said: TOMAK is a “nom de guerre” – like Lenin. I’ve been using that nom de guerre since I was 16 years old. It’s like Batman. If no one knows who you are, you can get away with anything.
Altdorfer, Waldmüller, Markart, Schiele, Klimt, Gerste, Kokoschka, the philosophers – the Vienna Circle, the Fantastic Realists, the Vienna Group, the Actionists, Franz West, and for example, the great scientists like Sigmund Freud and so on … This is my culture and this is where my art comes from.
In some obscure way I am part of this weird circle. But I am too outstanding and my art is too outstanding for this. I stay far away from those people referred to as “artists.” Most of them are lost in a cloud of political correctness and decoration.
My work has been exhibited in the most important museums for contemporary art in Austria, including the Albertina, Kunsthalle Wien, Museum der Moderne Salzburg, Museum of Applied Arts Vienna, and the Joanneum Graz. Art that isn’t shown in a museum isn’t art.
No. My life has always been beautiful and I like beautiful things. Beauty is all I need to survive. What is beauty? What is torture? Torture can be beautiful. I was influenced by the work of the musician John Zorn. One of his pieces is called “Torture Garden.” Art is an aesthetic phenomenon. That’s the only way to look at it. There is no morality. There is nothing. No stupid god. No stupid rules.
I’m always working for an audience. But I don’t give a f*ck about their opinions. Take it! Swallow it! But leave me alone!
I get up in the morning and this tiny little man in my ear tells me what to do. So I have to do it.
The whole thing is about variation. It’s like playing – the way children play. I do arrangements. I’m putting things together and sometimes it works. Then the tiny man in my ear is happy.
My drawings are texts. Everything is a picture. So a text is also a picture. And if there is enough space to draw something next to these texts, I draw the right thing or, ideally, the wrong thing on these sheets. My chaos is against the cosmos. In my best works I’ve destroyed the “meaning.”
“In the beginning was the Word,” they say. So it is! There are always headlines in my paintings and drawings. There has to be a headline on everything. That’s entertainment!
One of your first questions was about this persona. This figure guides me, lets me create new images. It has allowed me to invent a new autobiography – a different past and an exiting future. “What is truth?” another man once asked. That is the most urbane question that has ever been asked.
Maybe it isn’t anger. It’s the ANTI-way of thinking. The curator Elsy Lahner (Albertina Wien) came up with the name TOMAK – Posterboy of Antikunst. I’m an Antist. Art’s primary task is to offer a different way to look at things. Art is not about solutions – it isn’t science. Art is about how you approach a question.
I’m currently working on my “Black Series” and I’m preparing one of the biggest shows I’ve ever done with my gallery Lisabird Contemporary, where I will present my new book TOMAK MALPRACTICE. That will have to be enough for this year.