Subject: Thomas Rentmeister on his work
Author: Peter Nijenhuis
Date: 10th of January 2015
Visual artist Thomas Rentmeister (1964, Reken, North Rhine-Westphalia) studied at the art academy of Düsseldorf under Günther Uecker and Alfonso Hüppi. Rentmeister's work was exhibited in Germany, France, The Netherlands and Australia. He lives and Works in Berlin and is a professor at the Kunsthochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig.
Since the nineties you work with products and materials anyone can find in an average European supermarket or hardware store. Your approach seems akin to that of minimalist artists in the sixties of the last century. You refrain from a personal touch, self-expression and traditional sculptural composition. Like the minimalists you seem to prefer industrial products and their arrangement in a simple way, stacked or one thing after another. Sometimes however, your way of working seems to be a deliberate breach with the principles of Minimalism. Some of your works are objects, such as bread rolls and furniture cushions, cast into bronze, which seems to go against the minimalist rejection of illusion. Your work has unmistakably its own character, but it seems that it was not from the beginning simply what it is now. You graduate when you are thirty. It's the year 1993 and the next six years you make a series of polyester blobs. In 1999 you show for the first time a work in wich you applied Nutella chocolate spread. Two or three years later, somewhere in 2001 or 2002, you do something with an astounding and ravishing outcome: you smear the outside of refrigerators with Penaten baby cream. In 2005 you exhibit stacks and heaps of white consumer products such as sugar, paper, and polystyrene crumbs. Nowadays you also combine chocolate spread with iron wire mesh. Was the direction your work took throughout all these years the outcome of a pre-established question or a more or less delineated interest, or did you come where you are now by trying a lot of things and consequently rejecting certain things as well?
In the nineties I almost exclusively worked on a series of high gloss polished polyester sculptures, that some call 'blobs'. A small work, destined to be hung at the wall, in 1999 helped me to overcome this single minded focus on just one material. It was a thermoformed rack I found somewhere, to which I applied a layer of Nutella paste with the help of a breakfast knife. The resulting form had the characteristics that are well known from spreading a sandwich. Apart from some works dating from the mid eighties, like the Coffee cup line, this was the first work for which I used food products as a sculptural material. After ten years of polyester the Nutella rack was something of a fresh start because it stimulated me to enlarge my repertoire with materials such as Penaten baby cream, sugar and coffee powder and because these new materials I started to use, demanded a more radical approach. For some of my installations I limited processing to strewing which led to merely large quantities of material arranged in the form of heaps. Since then I developed my work in a playful way. My approach was not analytic, but intuitive and I tried my hand on all kinds of things. I think my work is nonetheless characterized by a personal hand, the choice of materials and objects that are part of it, and the way I arrange them. Looking back on my work, although heterogeneous by nature, you can point out a recurrent theme, or even several recurrent themes.