German artist Tor Seidel speaks about his challenging new exhibition
Tor Seidel opens up about his latest show and reveals more about what’s behind the concept.
Berlin-based Tor Seidel’s introspective images are representations of the complex human psyche. Influenced by classic German romantic art, his faceless human photographs have a dreamlike sensitivity. From a background in philosophy, here he explains how he came to exhibit in Dubai, his influences and the reasons behind the title of his forthcoming show at J+A Gallery.
This is your first solo show in the Middle East. How did it happen? Well, I have been fascinated by this city since I came here on my first visit in 2005, and I come back here on a regular basis. I have been photographing Dubai and documenting the different developments and for one year I’ve been working on a project to publish a book that shows the city’s fascinating development and its visionary power; hopefully, this book will be ready in spring. During one of the trips I met the owners of J+A Gallery here in Al Quoz. I immediately felt that this art space is a very special place, with an extraordinary atmosphere.
Can you explain why you called your exhibition ‘Hermetically’ and is it related to being isolated or sealed off from the outside world? I grew up in a big city – Berlin, where every person is also a person on their own. This loneliness and growing individualisation is a typical sign of big cities like Berlin, of modern communities in general. I think of being sealed from the outside world in a positive way: you generate power when you are yourself and when you listen to your own pure sense of nature. When contemplating the nature and outside world from your individual perspective, you reach a state of enhanced perception. In that sense, hermetically describes a condition of internalisation. I think this is important in these times, where you can buy everything any time and can connect yourself via the internet, where you are always distracted and can change your identity as often as you like very easily.
Your art focuses on the hidden parts of people’s personalities. Can you elaborate on what interests you about this topic? For me, a good explanation is to have a look into the history of art. I always wonder why the German romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich was so fascinated by painting people mostly with their backs turned to the painter in front sublime landscapes, melancholic situations and dramatic natural settings. It was a time of very sophisticated and cultured minds, and it was a world without television or the internet. I have tried to move these topics and aesthetics into contemporary contexts.
Is your work influenced by the city of Berlin? Berlin is where I grew up and have lived for the most of my life so of course it has a big influence. The city has so many hidden gems, romantic spots and magical locations. Also my friends and their stories, which are sources for my work, come from there.
Would you say that there is a dark element to your work? There definitely is. When I was speaking about the European romantic era, I mentioned the melancholic aspects. This so-called ‘dark romance’ is very interesting to me; I like the ambiguity, the wholeness and strong self-reflection. But it is not so much dark in the meaning of ‘gloomy’, more like ‘enigmatic’ or ‘obscure’. It is more about self-reflection. Every subject or topic has two aspects, and you can always find a contradiction I always think. I simply want to avoid rotting people’s minds, or shallow entertainment – it’s very German.
How has studying philosophy influenced your art? It influenced me insofar as I like to understand things and their underlying meanings or reasons for existence. I am looking exactly at objects and situations – I try to understand them and how people act.
Do you have any expectations about how people will react to your exhibition here? The opening was quite interesting, with a lot of good questions and dedicated art lovers. Many guests where talking in different ways about my images. I like that everyone can see different things in them. That is a present for me if someone tells me what he or she feels or sees when they are looking at my art. I believe my art is touching many people in different ways, and I hope, that despite all the stress and the need for being perfect, people will take the time to reflect on themselves. If my pictures help people to do this, I am happy.
Exhibition: Hermetically runs until November 14 at J+A Gallery, Street 4A, Al Quoz (055 395 0495) Artist: Tor Seidel Prices: On request