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Monique Thomaes: textcollections

Ursula Prinz

– Transparencies – 1998
published in "de passage monique thomaes" vice versa verlag berlin 1998
translation by John Epstein


The artistic world of Monique Thomaes lies in the immaterial. Her tools are the camera, the video camera, and the mirror. With the help of these tools she approaches her subject: light.

For this artist's fragile media are fleeting shadows, reflections altering in time, or time itself becoming manifest in the changes of light. She finds such themes everywhere, in a corridor, an old loft, a church, or an antique museum. In such places it is not the inventory of objects which interests her, but rather that thing which brings them to life, allowing them to be renewed on a daily basis: the light which pushes its way into the observer's eye and is the reflector of things. This light does not reflect things rigidly, but with a metamorphosing appearance. First through that machine, the camera, is the immovable picture produced. The reality we experience is fluent, even if it does occasionally recur. It can be reproduced once by the photo which dissects into single pieces the temporal movement progressions and light altercations or, by means of the video camera, it can be observed in its transformations.

Monique Thomaes prefers using the photograph, out of which she makes video recordings so that she can manipulate the processes of movement by means of repetitions and rewinds. She uses those moments of observation which have been isolated from nature with the help of technology, and from these she composes a new work.

In her work entitled "Blauäugig", the procedure is a matter of photographing the eyes of marble statues, found in the Pergamon Museum, along with their reflections which are then given a blue tone. Out of the dizzying game of repetitions, reflections, and movements, there paradoxically arises a rigorous order which, nevertheless, remains full of poetry. Blue: the color of the sky, a cool color, and the color of Romanticism. She sweeps away the reality of the statues' blank stares while at the same time bringing those stares closer to us emotionally. By means of such stares there arises a sort of paraphrase, despite the marble's blank look. In Thomaes' work lively and inspired image sequences usually arise from "dead" material which then becomes animated by light and movement.


au lieu de
Moving light is also the basis for her creation in Berlin's Parochialkirche. The light and structure of the gothic church windows are reflected in the glass display cases placed before the windows and in their blue glass bottoms; these reflections alter in appearance according to the time of day and weather conditions. Furthermore, this process is preserved in the display's photographs. Superimposures and fade-out effects produce an image which above all documents the augmentation in light. It is not the sacred which stands in the foreground here, but rather the constructive process leading up to the attainment of this "light picture". Laszlo Moholy Nagy's light-room-modulator comes to mind; the difference in Thomaes' case is that such a complex instrument is not required. Her work is slower and quieter. She requires the observation time, which is already predicated by the nature of the existing phenomena. Her work is the result of several stages of development. The installation is just as important as the photo resulting from it, or even as the final video work.


de passage
In the creation "de passage", surfaces of moving light are united with an architecturally related room presentation by means of slide projections overlapping with one another; this set-up, in turn, has the effect of influencing human space perceptions. Owing to his own shadow, the observer becomes, upon entering this room, a component of the installation thereby newly experiencing himself as well as his surroundings. In this instance light sources are predominantly artificial. The only source of natural light is filtered through a blue pane placed before the window. The observer becomes wrapped in light; he literally enters into the work. He does not look from without, but is rather a part of the work. In a consequent manner does the work of Monique Thomaes progress from one stage to the next. Her spectrum stretches from dissected objects to abstract constructions. Her precision of technique and handling of materials reveal a dominantly intellectual conception which does not, however, exclude the influence of empirical moments. Out of the detail, out of the simple presentation of a prop, evolves an entire universe which is just as artistic as it is alive.

Thomaes succeeds in uniting the stringent methods of constructivism together with delicate half-tones and then goes on to distill from this unity a poetic ensemble. From so many threads an entire network is spun, a network which may be understood as a complete whole and which is always in a state of dynamic change.



Eye – light – time – 1994
published in "de passage monique thomaes" vice versa verlag berlin 1998
in the catalogue "invite" Cultural Centre Knokke 1994
translation by John Epstein

In the age of the virtual manipulation of reality, an occupation with reflections has something almost a little archaic to it. Monique Thomaes brings the new, although, nevertheless, comparatively classic techniques of photography, projections, and video together with one another in order to artistically transpose the game of professed reality, along with its illusion comprised of light and shade, as well as the representation of the transitory time. Since antiquity reflection has again and again fascinated artists. Especially interesting was the part it played in the painting and literature of the late nineteenth century. At that time the theme was usually donned with a mythological robe as may be seen, for example, in the Narcissus thematic. In the period of the fin-de-siècle, this occupation with the "I“ – with one's very identity – was heavily tinged with melancholy and an apocalyptic mood. Typically enough the androgyny became the morbid ideal of beauty. And today as well, as we approach the conclusion of the twentieth century, this occupation with reflection relates to a facing off with one's own identity; however, at the same time it represents a questioning of reality as such and in all – and last but not least through the use of new technological developments – its doubtful manifesta-tions. Monique Thomaes does not use anything of a daily, or contemporary, nature in her examination; she does not even use her own person, but rather anonymous human pictures, representations from antiquity as they have come down to us and can today be seen in statues belonging to Berlin's Pergamon museum. Furthermore, she is only interested in the statures' eyes, their look, a look which is suggested by the empty marble eyes appearing in changing lighting. She consciously avoids everything which is individual, subjective. The reflection of the eye in one of her works produces a symmetry actually present in the human face; here, how-ever, one finds it "reversed“. In her works created for projection, confusion between the original and the reflective is carried out to an even greater extreme: in these works the real eyes of the sculpture are deleted out by a mirror and now are visible "only“ in the projection. The movement of the camera, as well as the consistently blue color, does not add to the confusion but invokes instead a poetic atmosphere which permits us to forget reality and the questions concerning so that we may become completely wrapped up in a soft cloud of unreal enchantment. Here physicality appears to have entirely ascended into a spiritual realm. Everything seems to occur only in our mind's eye; to have become a dream; to turn into a symbol of both eternity and transitoriness simultaneously. The delicate blue surrounds the material with a tinge of longing which is neither seizable nor which approaches or departs like a fata morgana but which is, nevertheless, guided and given rhythm by the artist's will. Longing after something which is untouchable, transitory, and unreal – a notion belonging to Romanticism – establishes itself hugely and "blue-eyed“ on top of a world full of projections of self as well as that which is alien, reflective-like in spiritual, mental space.