BLUM is pleased to present Sticks and Stones, Berlin-based artist Tom Anholt’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.
Anholt makes paintings that straddle the line between the semiotic implications of representation and the ineffable emotive qualities of abstraction. Referencing the artist’s curated repository of tropes and imaginary settings, each work on linen places a strong emphasis on composition and the hand. This signature style breaks each scene down to its most essential spatial components of form, light, and color—affective gestures that accumulate and transform recognizable symbols.
Partially alluded to in the exhibition title, the symbol of the tree is one of the predominant signifiers in Sticks and Stones. Formally used as a device around which to build receding depths, Contemplation (2023) or Perfect Day (2023) depict trees and their branches as dark, snaking lines which route from end to end of the linen’s most forward-pushing interior. Receding from these meandering twigs are mid-plane horizon lines which separate glistening bodies of water from rolling hills. On a personal level, trees also represent the artist’s twin sister Maddy, who began a battle with brain cancer just as Anholt started his first work for this exhibition. That precursory painting, Twin Branches (For Maddy) (2023), is a tribute to her, and functions as the narrative beginning of the show. As Maddy’s condition advanced, the artist began to see the person he had known wane—she left this world just as Anholt was finishing the exhibition’s concluding work, Drifting Away (2023). Telling a story of resilience and strength, Sticks and Stones honors Maddy’s life—capturing the unutterable emotions and simple moments of closeness tied to the universal experience of losing a loved one.
Viewing painting as a healing process, Anholt often takes as his subject matter the types of contemplative pastoral nature scenes favored by painters of the Romantic era. Key elements of these landscape paintings are blue pools of flowing or still water next to vibrant green fields. Each quadrant of the work functions as an abstraction with ambling brush strokes of greater or lesser pigmentation, imitating the natural qualities of light as it reflects. Seeded into these swatches of painterly marks is the occasional tiny figure, calling to mind the allegorical scenes of Caspar David Friedrich.
Most of the vignettes in Sticks and Stones take nighttime as their setting, employing the rich, darker palette required to indicate the absence of light. Simultaneously, the moon appears in many of these works—a twinkling orb or crescent that commands attention by means of its striking contrast with its shadowy environment. As much a recurring character as it is a motif or geometric abstraction, this moon unites the splintered factions of the painting schools from which Anholt draws reference.
Like the Romantic painters of times past, Anholt conveys personal sentiment and an interest in the natural world. Like the Abstract Expressionists, he uses gestures that call attention to his medium. Anholt unites art history, allegory, natural imagery, and an emotive palette under the umbrella of his own visual language.
Tom Anholt (b. 1987, Bath, UK) lives and works in Berlin, Germany. He holds a BA from the Chelsea College of Art and Design, London, UK, and studied at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm, Sweden. Anholt’s work was the subject of the solo presentation Time Machine at Kunstverein Ulm, Germany (2018) and featured in group presentations at the Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA (2023); Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Germany (2020); and KH7 Artspace, Arhaus, Denmark (2018). His work is held in numerous public collections, including the Collection Majudia, Montreal, Canada; Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA; and M Woods, Beijing, China.