In their works of art, supposedly mythical, folkloric motifs from their home territory of Siebenbürgen meet pieces of Art Brut; along with symbols of pop culture and Street Art, they form a crossover of kinds. Both brothers, who have lived in Germany since 1985, were born in Braşov, Romania in1973 and studied at the HBK (art academy) in Braunschweig. They have been working together since 1999. Their experiences of different cultures and the theme of cultural identity are kaleidoscopically reflected in their art, lending it an inimitable, idiosyncratic visual vocabulary. Their work involves a fusion of styles that transform historical, geographic, and cultural systems, as well as personal experiences, into a unique and powerful interaction of color and form. For the exhibition Heimaten (Homelands) in Leipzig in 2001 they created a kind of total work of art with the Neustädter Nachrichten. It was developed in collaboration with their father, mother, and sister, and based on their search for their common biographical roots. In terms of both content and form, Gert Tobias describes this installation as “a very important work” whose essential elements recur again and again.
Their exploration is based on the drawing as such, which the artists consider an independent work in and of itself. Their works on paper are further processed in other media. The woodcut, which has hardly been an object of other artists’ attention in recent years, is a special focus of theirs, since the brothers have long been interested in this supposedly old medium. Their large woodcuts are like puzzle prints, because the image is not formed until several prints pulled from individual blocks are put together. This creates the typical recesses and layers desired.
Uwe and Gert Tobias break up symmetries and combine different, apparently contradictory forms. They reduce motifs and make them abstract, thus subverting the accusation of being merely simple, decorative, and superficial. Besides the mythical symbolism that appears in mysterious, often melancholy settings, the expressive color of many of the motifs recall colorful folk costumes, fabrics, and embroidered pillows from the Siebenbürgen region. Even the typewriter drawings display this personal reference, as some of them are inspired by their mother’s embroidery patterns, while others paraphrase Herta Wilks’ familiar pattern book for linen embroidery. The two artists translate the embroidery patterns into minimalist woodcuts that have a surprisingly modern effect. They are made by using various colored typewriter ribbons, an old mechanical typewriter, and countless individual letters. Repeated typographical signs create two-dimensional arrangements that recall cross-hatched drawings and line techniques used in copper engraving.
According to Gert Tobias, “These works are based on an enthusiasm for Dadaism, as well as Visual and Concrete Poetry.” For the exhibition Dresden Paraphrases, Gert and Uwe Tobias spent the summer of 2012 in the Kupferstickkabinett in Dresden, studying Mannerist woodcuts, late medieval playing cards, Chinese prints, and strictly formal twentieth-century panels from the Kabinett’s inventory, and then placing these works in a dialogue with their own. They created more than forty imaginative, fascinating new works of art that once again display their inimitable and masterful virtuosity, artistry, and craftsmanship.
October 5, 2012 Caroline Schilling