Art & Design

Gert and Uwe Tobias: Transylvanian Men


Twin brothers Gert and Uwe Tobias were born in 1973 in the Brasov village of Transylvania, in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains. At school they learnt about their national hero Vlad Tepes and his exploits during the 15th century. In 1985 they moved with their family to Cologne, where as teenagers they discovered that the character Dracula from the novel of the same name was in fact based on the life of the bloodthirsty Vlad… They then went on to study art and since graduating in 2002 they co-sign their works including woodworks, sketches, collages and ceramics that have travelled Europe and America; in 2007 some of their selected works were featured by the New York Museum of Modern Art. For their second solo exhibition in Athens, hosted by the Breeder until December the 24th, they show a series of large scale wood engravings. This serves as a perfect example of their rich visual vernacular, which consists of abstract yet at the same time descriptive images, which utilise a unique colour palette and could be described simultaneously as strange, beautiful and mysterious; creations “haunted” by the dark but humorous in the spirit of the Tobias brothers.

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Beyond the rare and «mythical» side of your origins, what exactly did it mean for you living the first 12 years of your life in Brasov, Romania? We had a wonderful youth in the countryside.

You work with a series of different mediums and techniques – as painters, graphic designers, craftsmen… Which is the common reference within all of them in the final results of your work? We are interested in linking the characteristics of the different media and techniques.

Your works, especially the woodcuts, are «places» where myth, memory and history meet with some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century, in a very special way; could this be considered a «European exoticism»? No.

What is so special in reviving the technique of woodcut? The question for us was only one of how to use the technique of the woodcut.

These woodcuts have the sense of the old and crafted, yet without any sense of nostalgia; what is it that makes them so contemporary, like some images of anachronistic pop? The choice of colour, content and of course the technique.

Within your exhibition at The Breeder there is also a woodcut of the poster of the show; what’s the role of such a work in your shows? We do an Invitation woodcut for every solo exhibition; it could also be seen as an independent group within our work. For the show itself it also has an informative aspect.

In 2004 a show of yours was titled «Come and see before the Tourists will do – the Mystery of Transylvania»; five years later – and after the tourists – is there a Transylvanian Mystery in your work? There was never a real mystery about Transylvania, what we are referring to is the cliché of Transylvania as created by Bram Stokers “Dracula” or movies of this genre. We use titles of international vampire movies and combine them with the iconography of folk art.

We don’t try to re- illustrate those movies, or work on Transylvania; we are just interested in the phenomenon.