Thomas Schurr is an artist from New York now based in Berlin working for the past forty plus years in a variety of media focusing primarily on drawing, photography and text while exploring video and music as well. His latest project is based on his using his now considerable body of work as source material for producing printed matter. The first project has taken the form of cards and zines with the intention of also publishing a series books based on this material.
Who knows where the passion for doing art stuff comes from? Choosing it over something else (more practical) and sticking with it for a lifetime no matter what else got in the way. Circumstances, jobs, relationships, etc. could slow it down but nothing and no one could ever stop it. It all started with my family: mom and dad were both artists who met when they were in art school together as teenagers in the Black Forest in Germany. Art and lots of books about serious literature were a big part of my life early on growing up in Cincinnati and later then in New York. Artistic and intellectual tendencies were accepted and encouraged at home. This was early sixties when the emergent pop culture began to hit its full stride with rock n’ roll, television, comics, fast food, drugs etc. forming a template influencing much of what has followed in western culture and myself in the last fifty odd years.
It was a given that I would pursue my artistic inclinations by going to art school where I did well. I concentrated on drawing finding the spontaneity and directness more generally more suited to me than was painting. It had also something to do with a predilection fort he linear and the tonal. Drawing was very natural way of working for me while painting (especially with color) slower and often more confounding. In my last year of school I developed a way of working mostly based on gestural abstraction coupled with pop like imagery. Abstract expression and pop art being then two of the more dominant styles. I was and still am interested in the intersection of what is abstract in the image making process and what was considered representational and in exploring the delicate balance between the two and where these two elements meet. After graduation I continued to work in this manner but largely abandoning the pop like imagery and working more abstractly. Figures remained in the images but they were more of a personal nature and tended toward to the abstract surreal. During this time I also became quite interested in photography.
I ran into headwinds in graduate school not being fully confident or trusting my intuitive way of working since it didn’t seem to fit very well into what was then the academy of sorts, at least so I thought. I came erroneously to believe that what I should be doing should be clearly related to the clearly defined art praxis at the time and what I mostly saw in magazines. My work seemed oddly placed this context and it was in fact painfully personal. Only years later did I realize I was really a kind of outsider type artist working on a M.F.A. At the same time though I discovered in the then mid nineteen eighties other means of making art with Polaroids and using video as basis for generating imagery. I also became part of a loose collective of artists who came together to make strange music in the hills of Tennessee where I was attending graduate school.
Back home in New York I continued to struggle though not for a lack of trying as far as painting and drawing was concerned but found Polaroid making from video/TV and using other graphic based repro material worked very well for me. Things got only marginally better painting and drawing wise through the nineties while often other activities and circumstances were often in the way of sustained concentration.
In the early 2000’s I had another go at painting and drawing but again found that photo based material worked better overall though I managed a few successful large scale drawings. Moving to France with my wife in late 2003 proved to be cathartic experience; my drawing took off despite of not having any kind of a studio to work in. Over the next three years I produced hundreds works on paper. They had the right energy and finally after twenty plus years found the groove again. Things poured out spontaneously; I had nothing to lose since as it turned out much was lost already. It was a big return to my drawing and art making roots once again trusting my intuition and has continued along since without interruption.