“This is about inventing an image that had not been in the world. I don’t want it to look like I painted an object. But as I work I get to the point where images make sense to me, and maybe you might recognize something in them. The problem is I can’t explain for you what that something may be. I do think my work is a little representational, but I just can not tell you what they are representational of.” [Tomma Abts in conversation with Christopher Borrelli]
“Abts’s canvases present themselves as events, in which color and form are only the most visible occurrences in a series of decisions, revisions, corrections, and adjustments that are suggested by the ridges and seams of underlying layers. “I try to define the forms precisely. They become, through shadows, texture, etcetera, quite physical and therefore ‘real’ and not an image of something else. The forms don’t symbolize or describe anything outside of the painting. They represent themselves.” Indeed, the paintings are self-reflexive, and this effect is furthered by the artist’s titling rubric: once a painting is complete, she names it after an entry in a dictionary of first names from a particular region in Germany. The names selected for the titles are neutral and abstract and thereby resist direct references to gender.” [IAC Press Release for Tomma Abts]
Is it true that you used to go out with Chris Ofili?
The smile falters. “I won’t talk about that.”
I tell her that I hope she did.
Because then you could be characterised as a former golden couple, the Posh and Becks of the art world. (Ofili won the Turner Prize in 1998.)
Abts looks horrified. “No comment! I don’t think these private things should be part of art, in a way.” Without naming names, she goes off on a riff about self-cannibalising artists who make their careers by rummaging about in their own detritus. “It [the Turner] used to be such a personality-based prize and I think that’s not appropriate, necessarily, for art. I think it should be about the art and not the personality. These private things should not be mentioned.” [Tomma Abts in conversation with Emma Brockes]