TOMAAS is a Paris-based German visual artist who is best-known for creating surreal and emotionally compelling photographs which have been published in magazines such as Vogue Italia, Marie Claire, and Elle. He has recently started minting his work as NFTs.
In this interview he talked to Chimera about all things photography, cryptoart, and his recent work.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
On your website, you describe yourself as part of the post photography movement. Can you tell me more?
I think Postmodern photography represents all photographic and artistic styles and movements while acting as a tool for conceptual artists like myself who will use a range of media in the production to finalise their work. In my workflow I use photography, painting, animation and recently 3D tools to enhance the artistic outcome.
The general ethos is also that there are "no rules” but a clear preference for color which is quite a departure from modern photography which had typically been rendered in sharp or expressionistic monochrome.
In what ways have your experiences photographing your travels and your fashion photography shaped you as a photographer?
Travel-photography was sort of a reentry and rediscovery of my passion for photography which I had been very keen on since my teens but then drifted away from for years. I lived in New York City at that time and worked in sales on Wall Street. Finally I did a photography trip through Vietnam and the joy I encountered each day made me realise I might need to consider a little course direction.
I think travel photography taught me how to find and incorporate great locations to tell a story. Living in New York City for 18 years allowed me to use endless spectacular city backdrops in my fashion photography. So it was almost an extension of my travel photography with a more pre-planned approach in regards to concepts and also communication between team members.
Over the years I also developed a healthy intuition and confidence in which creative projects I should take on. That process is maybe what shaped me most as an artist - Just trust yourself and your ideas no matter what noise is out there and what direction people might want to pull you. In the end it helped me to carve out a unique style in my works.
Tell me about your NFT journey. When and how did you decide to sell your photos as NFTs and why?
In early 2020 I was approached by a crypto investor with ties to the NFT platform SuperRare. I was instantly fascinated by this new concept and even more by the kind of art I encountered in the NFT space. I also quickly realised that the NFT collector differs from traditional gallery investors and therefore would allow me to engage with a new audience.
Most importantly I saw a space that would be a great fit for many of the surreal artworks I had created till then. As an artist it's of course also important to adapt to changes. Seeing the evolution of NFTs and the emerging Metaverse it became just logical to me that the future is here and it's great to be part of something so early in its developing stages.
What NFT artists inspire you?
Beeple in my view is fascinating, how he smashes pop culture and technology together and accomplishes hilarious and often bizarre artworks. I am also inspired by artists like Pplpleasr who use their success to get deeply involved with charities.
What is your favorite NFT that you’ve minted so far and why?
I think “Hikikomori”, an animated artwork that just found a new collector on SuperRare. I read about this Japanese phenomenon called “Hikikomori" where an increasing number of individuals replace genuine human interaction for technology and completely withdraw from any outside real-world interaction for years. It is a very sad trend of a lonely and individualistic society.
To me it also raised the question if in the future virtual robots might completely or partially replace our partners? It's a real life scenario combined with a very surreal artwork represented by a somehow saturated colour choice. So the implementation of an idea towards the final artistic outcome is what I am proud of here.
What projects that you have recently worked on are you most excited about?
"Modern Addictions” is a series which speaks to our culture’s of over-consumption of prescription drugs and our bodies’ dependency on these medications that I produced a while ago but now created a new version by involving animations and 3D effects. I love how those tools allow me to give these stories extra layers of expressions and effects. Those will be minted shortly on SuperRare.
What other themes have you been exploring in recent work and why
My current NFT drop on SuperRare is called In “Search Of The Light” and Represents the Spiritual Journey caused by dramatic revelation of Ultimate Reality Based on my own experience its those pivotal experiences that cause us to re-examine our concepts and worldview, the path to enlightenment, planes of existence and more.
The next two following drops on SuperRare are… 1) “Almost Human”: This art piece explores the concept of lovotics, the science of human-robot love. As a culture, we have a strong interest in robots and automatons. Given the proper stimulus and behaviour, humans are able to form relationships with just about anything. If artificial intelligent systems can simulate human emotions could we actually fall in love with a robot? As human understanding of love and relationships is changing, is robotic companionship on the horizon?
2) “The Anatomy Of Justice”: "In the Penal Colony," Franz Kafka’s points out the prescient message that modern technology may take over punishment and create even more distance between punisher and punished. Today, technology and public policy have created the 21st century mass incarceration machine that incapacitates 2.3 million people in the US. Juries, used in less than 5 percent of criminal justice cases nationwide, are no longer an integral part of the justice system. Can we as a society change how we punish our citizens?
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions?
Yes, I am part of a group exhibition coming up with ABCYNTH GALERIE https://artchives.eu/ a fantastic new 1700m2 art space. A former bunker that has been turned into a Gallery space. I don’t have a date yet as they just finished the renovations. It was supposed to be the end of October but I'm not sure.
You touch on very real issues using surrealism. What do you think is surrealism's role today?
I think the role of surrealism today is to provide an element of surprise and confront the viewer with the unexpected. Ideally it also forces the viewer to step back for a moment and reflect on their unconscious interior. Why do we react to a surreal art piece the way we do and what does that say about our accepted reality? So in the end it's less about the artist or the art piece and more about the opportunity for the viewer to redefine themselves.
You’ve said in a previous interview that you have an “adventurous nature” and that you like to challenge yourself with new ideas and concepts. What new ideas are you looking to look into next and why?
An adventurous nature in a sense that I need to progress as an artist and push my style by adding new techniques, mixing my work with other forms of media outside of photography. Diving into the NFT space for example got me curious to learn animation techniques and 3D tools like Cinema 4D. These all allow me to express my artist ideas in new ways. They keep me challenged and on my toes and allow me to push my artistic boundaries.
You can follow TOMAAS on Instagram at: @tomaas_official.