Cornelia Thomsen

Cornelia Thomsen 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.


Cornelia Thomsen’s practice, ranging over media that include pen and ink, watercolor, and oil, insistently reflects on an upbringing in former East Germany, her home for the first twenty years of her life. The surveillance state—so memorably evoked in the film Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)—created an atmosphere of gnawing unpredictability that caused its citizens to flinch from active participation in public life and to self-censor as a means of self-preservation, seeking value in private interests and pursuits. Thomsen and her family experienced material and psychological hardship, yet the communist system paradoxically also offered her the opportunity to acquire practical skills she would later deploy as a tool for exploring a troubled past.