Despite the sheer breadth of subject matter, Cornelia Thomsen’s controlled expressions define her work. From socialist realism oil portraits of East German politicians to large-scale variegated stripes of color, to the work currently on view, her starkly hypnotic Structures series, Thomsen’s work highlights the tension between the forces of natural chaos and human discipline.
Guided by personal rigor, each of the Structures requires a deep well of concentration, while the artist dips a traditional writing instrument into an inkwell for each individual mark on the paper. The meditative mark-making process builds “little darts and lines” into a greater amorphous structure, so that no line crosses another. Each movement requires Thomsen’s undivided attention.
Cornelia Thomsen was born in 1970 in Rudolstadt, in Socialist East Germany. Recognized for her artistic talent at sixteen, she began a four-year apprenticeship at the Meissen Porcelain Company painting baroque patterns onto porcelain.
When the wall between East and West was razed in 1989, twenty-year-old Thomsen weathered the time of ideological and economic collapse through personal reinvention. She enjoyed the freedom of travel for the first time, and her world was liberated by the discovery of abstract art, which was completely suppressed in East Germany as it was considered a capitalist construct. Thomsen enrolled in the University of Art and Design in Offenbach, Germany, where her thesis marked the beginning of her investigation of abstract Stripes and led to her Role Models series, a realistic and robust examination of the East German political leaders.
She recognizes that being born into and living within the confines of East German socialism for her first twenty years has had a huge influence on everything she does. “How I think, what I want, what I need - you can relate it to everything I do,” she says.
Thomsen received her B.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Art and Design in Offenbach, Germany. She has exhibited all over the world, with solo exhibitions in Tokyo, New York, and Duesseldorf, Germany. Her work is in numerous public collections, including that of Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Ackland Museum, Chapel Hill, NC; Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia), Minneapolis, MN; and Friedrich Fröbel Museum, Bad Blankenburg, Germany. The artist currently lives and works in Manhattan with her family.