Tobias Pils

captain petzel berlin

June 9 – August 13, 2016
Opening: Thursday, June 9, 
6 – 8:30 pm


The graphic forms of Tobias Pils—the lines and shapes, even the spaces that he creates—shift from every direction they appear to take. Their ambivalence introduces interpretive anxiety. The indeterminate situation of Pils’s imagery ought to trouble him, yet I suspect that it proves perversely pleasurable, as conditions of existential tension sometimes do. Rather than plotting the outcome of his work in advance, Pils may be falling into it. He—his art—remains open to whatever happens. When one of his images heads somewhere in particular, its directional tendency just as quickly develops knots, kinks, or twists.

A number of Pils’s images from 2010, rendered starkly in black ink on white paper, consist of irregular or fragmentary grids of ruled lines overlaid with wavy lines at once related and unrelated to the grid. Sometimes the waves have been coordinated with segments of the grid, at times they become tangent to the ruled lines, but just as often they violate boundaries to establish forms of interference. There are also splotches of ink that might be deliberately positioned or merely residues of random accidents. To complicate matters, these irregular spots might be accidents converted to instances of deliberate placement. In sum, Pils’s drawings exist on an indefinite edge of order and disorder, as if they were derived from an orderly past (existence as we have constructed it) in recognition of a disorderly present (existence as we live it). Is this effect intentional? If the drawings revealed an answer to this question, they would no longer be situated at the edge. They would instead display the order we associate with a rational plan.

Pils’s works on canvas generate analogous interpretive frustrations. We may be witnessing a conscious aesthetic strategy, evidence of active artifice. But the ambiguities might also point to a psychological or sensory state that Pils passively endures. “I don’t believe in solutions,” he says, “so I try to forget every painting before I start a new one.”[i] Trying to forget is an active strategy that leads to obliviousness, a passive psychological condition. It leaves the painter free to do anything, but with no basis of instruction.

.. We have intuitions that we barely feel and fail to recognize, and yet they have consequences. Pils’s art is an exploration of intuition.

Text : Richard Shiff

Capitain Petzel  

Karl-Marx-Allee 45  10178 Berlin  + 493024088130