Interview: Thomas Schostok a.k.a {ths}

Please, introduce yourself, tell us a little bit about you.

I’m Thomas Schostok aka {ths} (Essen/Germany, *1972). Well, I work at the crossroads of art and graphic design. My design studio is based in Essen, West Germany. In 2002 I co-founded, together with Stefan Claudius, The Cape Arcona Type Foundry, a type foundry that produces and distributes digital typefaces.

Somewhat incongruous with my current career, I started out selling bathroom tiles before setting up my own studio in 1999, from where I work on projects both home and abroad. I never studied art or design and well, my method is not based on any preconceived idea. They say that my graphic design, collage, typography, illustration and painting challenge conformity, boredom, clichés which abound in the world of design and that I mock up nearly every stereotype there is. I’m not sure about this, but when people say that, it must be true.

My desire for freedom of expression and independence is self-evident. For my project entitled ›BEAST PDF Magazine‹, that was in 2001, I distributed my work for free in PDF format, not a banner or sponsor in sight, just artists and designers who were invited to participate, providing a perfect example of how technology can provide alternative means of publication. The BEAST PDF Magazine got a lot of collage work from artists around the world.

Alternative is probably a word that can be used to describe my choice of typography – words are yet more images in my work and I think my manual brushstrokes provoke an unexpected reaction. My so called ›Gluebooks‹ are experimental handicraft: a blank book, plenty of glue and improvisation are all that’s needed to create these deliberately dirty, chaotic, weird and ultimately trashy pieces. The pages are filled with cuttings from porn mags, photocopies, pieces of paper, saucy sketches and a jumble of uncensored, irreverent, suggestive phrases.

I used a lot of sexually explicit images in the past, the type of bad-quality, blurred porn photos that are often the favourites, and I dirtied them, paints over them, scratches and creases them, defacing them until dirtiness presides over beauty. I mention that because I got often ask about that kind of images, why I used them in my work and so.

I say “used”, because nowadays, as porn is a quasi standard in many collage artworks, and I don’t use that kind of images anymore, because it bore me. Someone said that my work can be  described as ›a strange, artistic ejaculation‹. I define my work as ›trash urban warfare porn dirt style pop‹.

Recent, current or future projects you are involved in that you would like to share with us?

I live for the moment.

What kind of things do influence your work?

Well, I’m often asked about what influenced me. But, let’s face it, is there really A THING that influence you? Some say, other artists have them influenced. What I mean is, the whole damn life is influencing you – everything around you. The biggest and the smallest experiences are influencing you. So the answer to the question is: everything.

How is your normal process of collaging? (idea or commission, where do you get your materials or find your images, which is your cutting technique, best way you have found to paste, where do you work and how, and very important: what do you do with your scraps)

Well, the process depends a little bit on the final “product” I like to create. If I’m working on canvas, most of the artworks are sketched before. When I’m working on my Gluebooks, I’m just pasting things into the book without knowing how it looks in the end. Images are everywhere: prints, books, flyer, all things that got printed on paper. I do not have any special or favorite source. But, if I do not find something, I need for a detail, for example, I’m just create it. It’s very handy if you are a graphic designer. You can produce your own work for use in artistic collage. A machine that feeds itself. I’m not sure if I have a special cutting technique. I’m just cutting things, ha. Well, I have a big box with scrap inside, but usually I don’t look inside, it frightens me what is inside.

Which is your latest discovery in the collage world? What advice can you give to a collage beginner?

Oh, I must admit that I’m not very much into the art scene. Not that it’s not interesting, no, no, I’m also visiting exhibitions and such, but I’m just not looking very much around when it comes to other artist. I think, I’m not really interested in artists who have the same style as mine. I’m more interested in artworks I could never create on my own. For example, oil paintings with beautiful landscapes, just like the old dutch painters. I have no such skills and that is, what really drives me.

An advice? Well, maybe: mix everything. Collage should not mean to just glue paper together. Collage means: mixing things. Mixing different things. And that can also be things, that are not widely used by other collage artists. For example, handwriting stuff or incorporate paintings in your collage. I mean, there are a lot of collage artists out there, but many use similar techniques and content. Sometimes you don’t see any difference. And the work of many artists are interchangeable. So, try to find your own style.

What do say your friends/family about your collage work? And, what do you do when you are not working on art?

At all, I don’t speak with my friends/family about my artwork. Why should an artist ever do that? Why should an artist every speak with anybody about his art? Art needs to stand alone for itself – watched or interpreted by others. Everything else is time-wasting.  I’m a sociopath, what do you expect from me? When I’m not working on art I work on commercial design work or working on typography or answering interviews.

Would you like to ask anything to John Baldessari? Shoot.

Uhmm, no, I don’t want to bother him.