Untitled is a large abstract painting that depicts a series of intersecting lines and areas of pigment mixed with epoxy resin. The only colours used are black and red. The pigment has been applied onto twenty two rectangular styrofoam tiles that have been laid edge to edge to create the picture surface, which is subtly marked by the grid pattern of the tiles and the pixel-like surface of the compressed polystyrene balls that form them. The work has been placed in a Plexiglas box which not only acts as a protective layer but is also an integral part of the painting. Heinzmann uses Plexiglas frames in order to give his works an object quality which takes it beyond the field of traditional wall-hung painting. The colour white is a dominant feature of Heinzmann’s work, as is his use of styrofoam. The texture and make-up of the styrofoam is crucial to the overall composition of the work. Being both fragile and coarse, its surface helps to create a rhythm in the painting similar to that of the weave in a canvas support. Heinzmann used different means to apply the pigment and resin – brush, roller, dripping and palette knife – resulting in a surface which varies in its texture from a light application to thick impasto. In places, the surface of the styrofoam is left visible. These different applications mimic different styles of painting – from abstract expressionism to colour field painting, from geometric abstraction to tachisme. The resin seems to float upon the white surface, setting up a dynamic between what is traditionally considered as foreground and background within the picture plane.
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.
Heinzmann’s work not only explores the medium of painting but also key moments in art history, and more specifically the history of modernism. Untitled can be seen as referring to a post-war period of painting which witnessed a rejection of the traditional conventions of the medium in favour of a move towards abstraction, both in Europe and the United States. The gesture and mark-making of the painter were crucial in this development, as demonstrated in the work of artists like Jackson Pollock (1912–1956), Hans Hartung (1904–1989) and Lucio Fontana (1899–1968).
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.