Jennifer Bork: Thomas Rentmeister
Catalogue essay from the exhibition “SuperStories. 2de Triënnale voor beeldende kunst, mode en design”, Hasselt 2009, 07.02. – 10.05.2009; in Super Stories. 2de Triënnale voor beeldende kunst, mode en design, (cat.) Stichting Kunstboek i.s.m. Triënnale Hasselt vzw., Hasselt 2009, p. 173–176 (Dutch a. English).
Airy seeming creations of polyester with a polished shiny surface; creamy Nutella creeping limitlessly across the room; large packets of paper tissues ordered in a very formal way or refrigerators covered with Penaten cream arranged to an almost seven metre high column. The impact of Thomas Rentmeister’s Oeuvre comes from his enjoyment to experiment with all of the facets the field of his artistic work affords. At times, his sculptures seem to defy physical laws or to change the determinate aesthetics of the chosen material. He consistently challenges rules of perception.
Most of his works are not bound to a particular setting but encourage dialogues with divergent places: a public storefront, a sacred church interior, a clearing, a gallery showroom or the expansive space of a storehouse.
Since about 1999 Thomas Rentmeister has used prefabricated products from common brand names such as Nutella, Tempo or Penaten in addition to cast-sculptures or findings of everyday domestic life. Removed from their daily purpose those products seem to gain new areas of importance concerning their formal view and their content. The abstraction which is caused by the transfer of the everyday goods into the area of arts, makes the contemplator feel insecure. Therefore the view consumer goods as pure formal creation shows that Thomas Rentmeister ties in with the American Minimal Art. The aesthetic of the material and the given complex structure of the packaging generates an aesthetically artistic result.
The interlaced, folded structure of the paper tissues crackling foil wrapping with its shiny appealing surface reflects and refract the light and lend the work an air of glittering promises. Putted in a cube-like form its bulkiness gets diametrically opposed to the airiness of the tissue. This generates an undetermined back and forth between the impressions of massiveness on the one hand and lightness on the other hand. The created entity between the sculptures let nearly forget the simplicity of the disposable object. The mass-produced articles are not immediately recognized as such but function as autonomous artworks. This effect of the changing perception seems to work extremely well when using food related material. The contemplator is being put in a condition of controversial conflict with his own senses. Tons of Nutella spread across the floor cut the product out of its common context so that it rather reminds of the creature in “The Blob” than of a sweet bread spread. Its typical specific creamy consistency seems to become a threatening, massive whole. Memories of the typical taste which are aroused by the sense of smell proceeding simultaneously to the visual impression and create at the same time a feeling of discomfort and familiarity.
Thomas Rentmeister’s reverse conversion of mass products into the context of an actual noticeable mass can as well be interpreted as an ironical handling with an affluent society that has lost more and more the sense for dimensions. This phenomenon of advanced estrangement have been aware as a problem long ago by the international operating multi group concerns whose products consistently appear in Rentmeister’s artwork. Although they daily fabricate the same product in great bulk they take great pains to preserve their image of reliability and tradition. The consumer good can be relocated in the manageability of the everyday environment, the confident logic seems to be rehabilitated. The artist hijacks common marketing strategies of the multi group concerns by implementing an artistic, aesthetic motivated estrangement process. Insofar Rentmeister’s sculptures deal with the social perceptual pattern of brand articles. The easiness they do so, as well as the esprit and irony is a consistently factor of Thomas Rentmeister’s oeuvre.
© Jennifer Bork