Visually imagining something—by drawing or modeling—forms the basis of all that Thomas Schütte does. He starts with what is conceivable and representable, and, thus, with what is possible rather than what is real. Over the years Schütte has drawn personal motifs—flowers, vegetables, fruit, soft toys, portraits of women. For this, he has developed a representational approach using pen or brush that succinctly and elegantly notes the object. He outlines the contours, hints at the surroundings, and sometimes, before moving on to the next subject, adds a watercolor counterpoint. For these small-scale formats Schütte does not need a studio, but works instead in nocturnal solitude at his table at home.
Many of Schütte’s drawings have been created in loosely-linked sequences that explore variations of the same motif, with occasional excursions into a narrative style, as in his series “Flucht.” While these ten numbered sheets are initially organized without commentary, the fifth, which acts as the title page, is captioned “Storyboard,” indicating a cinematic process involving individual frames, close-ups, and long shots, which, together, form a narrative. Although neither the figures nor the circumstances are explained, connections may be guessed. The sequence begins with a hefty dispute, then a cut, followed by the image of a multi-story building that fits with the fortresses and castles found in variations in Schütte’s works. Enter two figures in conversation, possibly about the young man of determined mien that we encounter in the next image, who could well be regarded as the hero. In the second part, following the title page, escape is clearly of the essence, for there is a mountain landscape with a hidden tunnel entrance, a view into the tunnel’s depths, a train hurtling through the night, and a carriage with two slumbering passengers, evoking a trans-Alpine journey to some unknown place. At the end, there is a blackrimmed porthole—surely we are now on the high seas—revealing a glimpse of an island with the silhouettes of tall buildings. Is this a retreat to some distant isle where the fugitive feels safe? Is the fugitive en route to some nostalgic place where discord and surveillance might be avoided? There is no definitive answer to that, for the storyboard outlines only the dream, but not its interpretation. The associations that leap from image to image, the departure from a confined environment to venture into dreamt-of worlds are not just metaphors for the creation of fantasies, but the very inspiration for them. The romanticism of Schütte’s vision lies in the way he sets his sights on something indeterminable on the horizon that prompts him to draw. The view through the porthole is a metaphor for the existence of the artist, framing Schütte’s work in ever-new directions of flight.
Further works by Thomas Schütte in the Baloise art collection:
Inv. no. 0674, Flucht, 13.03.1997, Watercolor, India ink, and chalk on paper, 28.6 x 16.5 cm
Inv. no. 0677, Flucht, 13.03.1997 Watercolor, India ink, and chalk on paper, 28.6 x 16.5 cm
Inv. no. 0678, Flucht, 13.03.1997, Watercolor and India ink on paper, 28.6 x 17 cm
Inv. no. 0679, Flucht, 13.03.1997, Watercolor, India ink, and chalk on paper, 28.6 x 16.9 cm
Inv. no. 0681, Flucht, 13.03.1997, Watercolor and India ink on paper, 28.6 x 16.9 cm
Inv. no. 0682, Flucht, 13.03.1997, India ink and chalk on paper, 28.6 x 16.7 cm
Inv. no. 0683, Flucht, 13.03.1997, Watercolor, India ink, and chalk on paper, 28.6 x 16.7 cm
Inv. no. 0684, Flucht, 13.03.1997, Watercolor, India ink, and chalk on paper, 28.6 x 17 cm
Inv. no. 0686–0687, Kopf, 1992, Ink on paper, 64.5 x 50 cm