In his works, the German artist Thorsten Brinkmann (born 1971) combines curious items and found objects in an unforeseen, imaginative manner. In his first solo exhibition in Denmark, he works in the intersection between sculpture, photography, ready-made and performance, exploring how we relate to the things that surround us – and how we could relate to them. Thorsten Brinkmann confesses to be a so-called “Serialsammler”; he is a collector, but not of something in particular, rather of anything that he might find interesting, from various knick knacks and bric-a-brac to furniture, lamps, blankets, buckets and an endless list of miscellaneous things. He is capable of highlighting the unexpected expressivity found in almost any object. The artist examines the connotations of different materialities, extracting the expression of each object. Furthermore, reflection upon how the various objects relate to one another is encouraged through the juxtaposition of trivial and extraordinary things.
Normally, things are defined by their purposive aspect, but in this context, they are employed for an exclusively aesthetic effect. This is a dimension of the object, which is easily overlooked in everyday use, however, it might be more noticeable as soon as the things are stripped of their usability, original intent and customary utility value. Brinkmann pairs things in a manner which is ostensively nonsense, at least from a pragmatical viewpoint. This approach reveals a somewhat Surrealist legacy: This abundance of different objects is essentially an accumulation of symbols that constitute a kind of puzzle of kitsch.
In the exhibition Saddle the Mountain, Brinkmann frequently draws on the history of art with his use of traditional motifs like still life and portraiture, and he often refers to famous masterpieces either directly or indirectly. The majestic postures of the people in portraits may suggest that knights and monarchs inhabit these pictures – in fact, it is the artist himself. At first sight, this is unknowable since the face and the body are covered and hidden – not under precious, royal clothes but underneath dented trash cans, tattered blankets or old skiing gloves.
“I always had the problem that the artist’s face became so important to the work that it was really hard to divide the work from the person, so for me it was a dilemma: how was I to work completely with my body and to work with the objects. After a while, the solution was to cover my head”
Each of the works in Saddle the Mountain appear as an eclectic, unstable world containing fragments from completely different people, eras, places, and social classes. In his absurd compositions, Brinkmann includes a wide array of things one would usually be able to encounter at a flea market, each with their own history. As things that have been owned and used previously by other people, they have a certain metaphysical patina: an aura of having been a part of another life. In Brinkmann’s playful universe, you can find traces of life, consumption and overconsumption. In the appropriation of these objects, this act gives emphasis to how all kinds of things are shaped by their use, ascribed meaning by their owner and charged with a special sentimental value – despite occasionally changing hands.