Neuschnee - Stuttgarter Zeitung, No. 101
English copy: 

A Wanderer moves through space and time

Böblingen: The British artist Mark Thompson presents the results of his first year in Germany. By Anja Tröster

The landscapes that Mark Thompson paints can only be found by others on paper. The intense, intricately structured, monochromatic, large format paintings do not depict real places. They are found objects brought back from his travels. Time, says Mark Thompson plays a much more important role in his paintings than place. The places are somewhat incidental – “taken literally”, he says, “they are to some degree self portraits”.

Therefore the British artist didn’t consider it important where he worked. Some time was spent in preparation for his move from Oxford to Böblingen, and on the 10th January 2009 the step was taken. He came here because of love. He quickly felt at home in his new surroundings says the passionate wanderer, and describes his new home town as “nicely walkable”.

In reality the implications of moving to a new country have been more far-reaching than Thompson would have initially expected. In London he was a well known artist, able to live from his art. Here he is unknown, and he returns the point on which he stood ten or twelve years ago – the work of painting in his studio, already a solitary business, has become even lonelier. His German language abilities are sufficient for short conversations, but not more.

And so, during the snow rich winter months Thompson began to wander – mostly around the Oberer See, one of the local lakes, which was adjacent to his then studio. At the end of this first year in his new surroundings, he portrayed the shore line as the decisive, or crucial punctuation mark of his transit.

With the exhibition Neuschnee, in Galerie Contact, Böblingen, where this picture can be seen for the first time, Thompson has his debut in Germany. For the 37 year old artist, this show is at the same time a good opportunity to see all the new work with one glance – his new studio does not offer him this option. In this overview he discovered new sounds, not only in the paintings, which he calls “canvases” (“If I could I would weave it myself!”), but also in his sketches, the “works on paper”. In earlier works he depicted his search through harsh vanishing points, but in these new works the path disappears to the side and into the woods. The arrangement of the landscape is clearer than ever. He experiences his new paintings as harder and more self-confident, says Thompson.

Perhaps without these new experiences of a foreign country, the painting “Zurich” might never have seen the light of day. It shows an empty street at dusk, on a milky, overcast winters’ day, that could also have come from the barracks at Ludwigsburg. The scene couldn’t be gloomier but at the same time familiar. The 37 year old is looking out for this borderline between the foreign and the recognized. This picture, says Thompson, shows him that his painting practice can also be applied to urban motifs. In retrospect, this change from remote, almost sublime landscapes, to urban emptiness is logical: “Most of my current experience is within an urban framework” says Thompson.

Dr Eva Marina Froitzheim, curator of the town gallery, describes Thompson as an explorer in the footsteps of Caspar David Friedrich. The “romantic”, she sees not so much in his motifs, but in the search for his own place in the world. Only the monk at the sea is missing, she says, “with respect to these paintings, the viewer takes that role”.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010