Click here to download a PDF of an article on Christian Tomaszewski from the January-March 2009 issue of Kunstforum(article is in German).
Christian Tomaszewski (b. 1971, Gdynia, Poland) owes a great deal of the influence in his work to film, which, in past works, has manifested itself in the form of surreal installations that attempt to place the viewer within the film itself. His work also deals with issues of space, the elements that create it, and the phenomenological experience of the body within it. Hunting for Pheasants is no exception. This project originated with a series of “poster-drawings” for non-existent movies that featured the names of real Hollywood actors and directors. Tomaszewski decided that the end result was far too decorative, too much like real movie posters that are visually appealing and intended to sell a product. He abandoned the “movie” theme, but continued to make posters with a similar technique when he began to create Hunting for Pheasants.
Hanging on the colorful, striped walls are 64 original works that depict historical and fictional victims of assassination, as well as more abstracted concepts and figures related to the same theme. Many contain recognizable faces; others are far more obscure. The one thing that binds the victims depicted is the way they died. Though this is not obvious in looking at the posters, the theme is reiterated by the video comprised of looped footage from YouTube related to assassination, including a clip of former president William McKinley’s assassination in 1901.
Most of the posters are painted with tempera on paper. Other works have elements of collage, ink jet print, drawing, stained glass, and mirrors. They are created in the style of the Polish Poster School of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The influence of the pseudo-Pop Polish movement that emerged after the end of Social Realism, dominating the Soviet art scene for decades, can be easily identified in the work of Tomaszewski. The Poster School became well known for its use of bold colors, and clear designs that utilized cultural symbols and allegories. While each hand-painted poster was a work of art in its own right, they were also intellectual mazes, containing messages that were not easily discernible. Similarly, Hunting for Pheasants is intentionally devoid of accessible information. It offers rich visual delectation, while remaining both emotionally and intellectually arcane.
Tomaszewski has physically transformed the gallery space with intent to both intrigue and disorient the viewer. As the eye is drawn by the poster images, the body is obstructed from approaching it by the maze that rises from the gallery floor. The vibrant vertical bands painted on the walls are reminiscent of the color bars of a television testing pattern, signifying the end of a transmission, or perhaps here, suggesting the end of a life. They form an ironically colorful setting for an otherwise grim subject in the posters that calibrate their width along the gallery walls.
Although Tomaszewski had abandoned the creation of posters for non-existent movies when he began Hunting for Pheasants, there remains something fictional and filmic about these images. Many of them capture a single instant in a person’s life, and much like an iconic media image that becomes part of our collective memory, that instant often becomes an allegory of posthumous heroism and martyrdom.
—Erin Rice, Gallery Graduate Assistant
Christian Tomaszewski. Photograph courtesy of Jason Mandella. All images courtesy courtesy of the artist and Michael Wiesehoefer Galerie
Installation views: Galerie Michael Weisehöfer, Cologne, Germany