Love Story is a large framed work that shows a white cross, made from cotton wool, which is applied to a plywood backboard which is painted white. The texture of the material and its density create slight undulations when viewed from different angles. The cross itself is not uniform but has a hand-drawn quality with its curved lines of uneven length. The title Love Story, translated from the German ‘Liebesgeschichte’, suggests that the cross is the universal symbol, frequently used in writing, for a kiss. The work is framed in a Plexiglas box which is an integral part of it, both offering protection and giving it an object quality which takes it beyond the field of traditional wall-hung painting.
Part of a generation of German contemporary painters who work within the field of ‘expanded painting’ – that is, who question and explore what constitutes painting and what the status of a painting as an object in itself is – Heinzmann scrutinises his chosen medium and its history. He does this in part by using a wide range of materials, such as styrofoam, feathers, cotton wool, cow and horse skin, crystals, minerals and aluminium, as well as pure pigment.. These are not arbitrary ‘found’ materials but rather each is chosen for its particular characteristics.
Love Story was shown in Heinzmann’s solo exhibition at Galerie Guido W. Baudach in Berlin in 2004, where it was displayed with other works that all explored the aesthetic of the white monochrome, incorporating materials such as paper, cotton wool, styrofoam and crystals. The colour, or non-colour, white plays a significant part in Heinzmann’s practice and dominates most of his paintings. In Love Story the artist places one white material upon another, creating a monochrome image. Within the history of modern art, and perhaps more specifically painting, the use of white monochrome has been seen as the ultimate manifestation of abstraction. An early key example was Kasimir Malevich’s Suprematist Composition: White on White 1918 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). Signalling the end of painting, it seemingly silences representation of any kind. Heinzmann’s work interacts with such moments in the history of modernism, as well as later reductive efforts by artists such as Piero Manzoni (1933–1963) – who also worked with cotton wool – and Robert Ryman (born 1930). Nevertheless, the title and abbreviated imagery of Love Story give the work a narrative element that takes it beyond the purely abstract.
Thomas Groetz, ‘Peace of Mind’, in Thilo, exhibition catalogue, Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin 2004, p.17–18.
Colin Perry, ‘Thilo Heinzmann’, Frieze, no.126, October 2009, http://www.frieze.com/issue/review/thilo_heinzmann/, accessed 2 July 2010.