Vampires have infiltrated popular culture, especially of the teen variety, but twin brothers, Gert and Uwe Tobias are more concerned with their Romanian heritage than the myth of Dracula. As a result, eastern European folklore is a key influence for their artwork; strange-looking creatures creep into their pieces, and you have to look twice to recognise these characters, especially in their woodcuts.
The exhibition set up by Whitechapel Galley showcases a variety of their collages, woodcuts and sculptures. Arranged together in a large room, despite their different mediums, they complement each other harmoniously. The collages, made from recycled material, are obscure with surrealist elements – for example the placement of random cut-outs can be seen as the illogical process of the unconscious. Their woodcuts are magnificent, revolutionising the printing process for the creation of large-scale pieces. The confrontation between abstract elements and figurative details creates a “dramatic and surreal tableaux.”
The sculptures struck me the most; set upon mass-produced ceramics, the brothers have created vulgar, incomprehensible forms to sit on top. Some have flowers or random objects incorporated into them, following the theme of the collage by bringing together disparate objects.
What is most interesting and successful about the show is Gert and Uwe’s ability to overlap somewhat binary definitions, like figurative and abstract, nature and culture. It is a difficult task to allow for all these factors to come together, and the two brothers achieve it seamlessly.
Gert & Uwe Tobias runs until June 14 at Whitechapel Gallery