Portrait of color artist Tomislav Topić

»Color is an illusion«

Whether using rollers, strings or paint sprayers, Tomislav Topić takes unusual approaches to creating color. The artist talks to Art.Salon about the influence of graffiti, wildflowers and about the often unpredictable creation processes of his works.

by Marén Cohen Monroy, August 06, 2022
Tomislav Topic im Atelier
Photo: Mandy Möbes
Tomislav Topić studioview

Tomislav Topić's works are in a constant state of flux, and color plays a central role in this process, as the artist uses it to simulate movement in a variety of ways. The countless overlaps, color gradients and moiré effects make it impossible to fix them visually, because as soon as one has focused on a structure, a color or a point, attention is drawn to a new effect. The viewer is thus forced to move in front of, under, or around the work to escape this irritation. But the change of position again leads to adjusting the focus. Work and viewer thus communicate through permanent, reciprocal movements.

In addition to color, form plays a central role in Tomislav Topić's works. Thus, in the sculptural installation Coloropolis Curved 1 (2022, steel/fiberglass/paint, 150 x245 x 50cm), the static geometry of the steel circle contrasts with the softly falling fiberglass grid in the lower part of the work. This effect is intensified all the more when the wind sweeps through the work: permanence meets movement here once again. The separation of the two elements also occurs through their different color schemes, as the red-blue color grids, which become lighter towards the top, demand their independence from the support, which is kept in the non-color black. Both parts thus contrast with each other.

The artist, born in Hanover in 1985, does not commit himself to a single medium, but experiments with a wide variety of formal languages; paintings are joined by large-format wall works as well as versatile room installations. Tomislav Topić had this flexibility early on, when he worked as an urban artist alongside his studies as a color designer at HAWK Hildesheim. Today the artist exhibits internationally and can be seen in countries such as Germany, Italy, France, Switzerland, Greece, Mauritius, Qatar, USA and China.

Tomislav Topić, who was formerly part of the Quintessenz collective, describes his art as »abstract / site-specific / intuitive,« as he tells us in the interview.

Tomislav Topic Instalation Coloropolis Curved
Tomislav Topić - Coloropolis Curved 1, Sculptural installation 2022, steel, fiberglass, varnish, 150 x 245 x 50 cm

How do you start with a work? How does your individual process begin?

Actually I am constantly in a process, every mistake and also mishap in existing processes leads me to new approaches. Through my installation productions a process runs permanently. In the meantime, »by-products« arise: failed color attempts, the surfaces on the »splash-out wall« or the stale pigment water have provided approaches to a new series of works.

A new process always emerges when I get annoyed or bored with something else. I have several series of works on which I work alternately. For me, the alternation of these series in the process is important, because I often carry insights from one series of work into the other.

What do you use to create color and what do you like about it?

Through my studies and my constant involvement with color, I realize that I can't create color myself. Color is surface and the absorption and reflection of light. Color is therefore an illusion and does not exist without light. The same pigment appears differently on different materials. I can achieve a lot of dimension and depth with one color alone, if I also focus on the material, the space and the light.

I find the complexity of a color and often its history fascinating. For us nowadays it is normal to have access to any color, this was not always so and the discovery of not a few colors in history is based on chance. Very fascinating, I think.

I myself mix colors from existing palettes or basic colors. In the production of the installation I use an airless device (paint spray gun), in another series I apply paint with strings. Then there are different tools I use to apply paint. I also find physical forces and the influence of nature extremely exciting.

Tomislav Topic Inbetween 14
Tomislav Topić - In Between 14, Painting 2021, Acrylic on canvas, 160 x 120 cm

What influences your choice of color?

Especially in my site-specific installations, I respond to the site. A balance between harmony and contrast is important to me, and for that it's important to engage with the place, which thus influences the color choice. I would be lying if every color choice was decided rationally. This is not me, many color concepts and decisions are based on my experience and intuition.

Is there an artist or art movement that has particularly influenced or impacted you?

Abstract expressionism from the USA inspired me very early on and thus influenced the artists within this movement. I myself come from a typical working class family, creativity was important to my mother, but far away from an art historical context. Thus I came into contact with the »real« art world quite late. Before that I was at home in the world of graffiti, which influenced my world and my creative work for years and had a lasting effect.

Later my interest in modern painting grew, the early understanding and handling of color is very impressive and inspiring.

How should the colors of your works be perceived?

Quite simply: they should be perceived, color is the focus of my work and expressing the power of color is an important concern for me. My work and its coloring should penetrate deeply into the viewer and touch on an emotional level and awaken understanding for the relevance of color. Because seeing color is so normal for us, for me it is a freaky wonder.

What color has your world?

Since I have my studio in the country and I am surrounded by meadow and wildflowers, my color world changes with the season. Almost weekly, new wildflowers shoot out of the ground and color the land in new hues.

Tomislav Topic Interplay 11
Tomislav Topić - Interplay 11, Sculptur 2022, Glass fiber, paint, wood, 140 x 100 cm

At what moment do you find the light most beautiful?

Very early in the morning, when the sun is just half an hour after rising on the horizon. Or in the summer between 9- 9:30 pm, at this time I feel that the setting sun and the molecules in the air are exchanging blows to create the most intense worlds of color.

Do you have a favorite color?

I do not have a favorite color. A while ago I was asked the same thing, to this question I also had no answer, but what I could say was that I did not like light or baby blue at that time. Half a year later I made two large murals, just with a lot of light blue.

I had in the past favorite combinations, some I repeated more strongly some less often. But this is not my goal, of course I always want to discover new combinations for me and challenge myself. Even if color is so multifaceted in its diversity and almost infinitely combinable, I catch myself again and again as I want to fall back on existing recipes - so an eternal struggle against their own color comfort zone.

If you were not an artist, what would you be?

I have never asked myself this question and I hope I never will.

Name: Tomislav Topić
Date of birth: 11.06.1985
Place of birth: Hanover
Place of residence: Berlin/Brandenburg
Instagram: topic_tomislav
Website: www.tomislav-topic.com
Galleries: ArtNow Gallery (Berlin), Quantum Gallery (Shanghai), 44309 Gallery (Dortmund)

Art.Salon

Tomislav Topic im Atelier mit Wandgemälde
Photo: Christian Hinz
Tomislav Topić working in his studio

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