Zhanar will come up with clever text or Karina... Definitely not Darina
For spring season 2015 Hermès has undertaken a special collaboration with the Swedish artist Thomas Broomé to create the spring season window display of The Hermès Maison in Shanghai, called "ModernMantra". Contemporary Swedish artist harnesses the power of calligrams to create drawings and sculptures where text is changed into form, while form is broken down into text. Thomas Broomé has created a home-within-a-home that incorporates warmth and ingenuity. The three spaces: a bedroom, a living room and a corridor, show the boundless creativity of the home where text describing the dizzying multiplicity of the world has been endowed with form, using repetition to sketch the outlines of the items. Broomé has exhibited numerous times around the world and is currently represented by Galleri Magnus Karlsson in Stockholm, Sweden and Bendana-Pinel Art Contemporain in Paris, France. In 2012 Broomé was the artist in residence at The Ingmar Bergman Estate in Fårö, Sweden. Étage talked to the artist about his inspiration, artistic ambitions and the meaning of symbols in art.

Thomas Broomé
— How did your collaboration with Hermès come about?

— My gallerist in Paris, Juan Carlos called me one day, excited! Hermès had visited one of my shows and were interested in a collaboration. A meeting was arranged in Paris, since I was living there for a time, and then we just went from there. It has been a very free process, they have not once told me what to do. We wanted the same thing and had a common aim: a really nice window installation.

— Your window for Hermès reminded me of Matisse's efficiency with colour and form combined with so fashionable lately info-graphics. What were your inspirations for it?

— It is so funny that you say that, since when I sat looking at the finished images, I also was reminded of Matisse. It was never intention- al, but I guess that since Matisse together with other great artists that I like are always in the back of my head, sometimes one of them makes their presence more noticeable.

— Could you explain the idea of visual/contextual dichotomy that you used for the Hermès display?

— I always like to think of my work as multi-layered, like an onion, except I don't think that there is any real centre inside this onion, only more smaller onions! So in every work there is, among other layers, a philosophical layer. A chair in the installation is both a form and a description. So when you look at the drawing it is form, but when you read it, that form is denied, and it turns into a description. Therefore, it is impossible to see both representations at the same time. Once you have understood the idea of double representation, you construct an amalgam, something seamlessly connected; something new.

We do this all the time today since we are fundamentally changing the world we live in. At some point we will be divided into the ones that create the frameworks for daily life, and the ones that use them.

"I ALWAYS LIKE TO THINK OF MY WORK AS MULTI-LAYERED, LIKE AN ONION, EXCEPT I DON'T THINK THAT THERE IS ANY REAL CENTRE INSIDE THIS ONION, ONLY MORE SMALLER ONIONS!"
"I ALWAYS LIKE TO THINK OF MY WORK AS MULTI-LAYERED, LIKE AN ONION, EXCEPT I DON'T THINK THAT THERE IS ANY REAL CENTRE INSIDE THIS ONION, ONLY MORE SMALLER ONIONS!"
— As a piece of art, what effect do you expect for the Hermès installation to have on a viewer?

— Well, for me it is foremost a new way of thinking about presentation. The shop window is a closed space, almost like a self-sufficient eco system. There are no people walking around it, nothing to disturb the scene. I have had an idea to work with this kind of environment, but never really found where to do it. Because it never felt that the viewer was distanced enough for the uncanny effect I had imagined. I think the window of a store is the perfect setting to try this idea out.

I never really expect anyone to do or feel anything from my art; that would be presumptuous and probably would only lead to disappointment. The viewer is free to interpret and feel. It is always a combination between the work and who/where the person is at that moment. I do not wish to control or explain, I just want to show alternatives and plant seeds of potential future thoughts.


— Where does your fascination with calligraphy come from?

— My mother used to write really elaborate cards to family and friends. She had this typography book, which I was really fascinated by. At some point it just felt natural to work with text, and since I am a visual person soon text became form.

Hermès Shanghai Maison Spring 2015



Hermès Shanghai Maison Spring 2015
— Could you tell about your play with dimensions? To what degree is it influenced by modern technology (the idea that our perception becomes more and more visually two-dimensional from the screens, versus the real 3D understanding of the environment)?

— I have always been into computers, from an early age. When I was about ten, I nagged my parents into finding a programming course for me to attend. This was in the early eighties, so it really was a low lev- el programming. When I was eleven I bought my first computer, and since then my reality has been more or less a simulacrum. Today, as you pointed out, we are living as much inside the virtual, as in the real world.

— In your works a lot of times things are labeled. Do you label yourself as a post-modern artist? Or maybe something else?


— I think that labels are more or less unavoidable, but I leave that up to the ones who are interested in that sort of restrictions.



— What is your aim as an artist?

— To be a better person.

— One of your exhibitions is devoted to Andy Warhol. How did that come about? Why do you think he is important? And who are your artistic inspirations?

— The importance of Andrew Warhol is fundamental and something that an artist today really cannot escape. For me, he is like the nickname given to him by his Factory hang-arounds: «Drella» a combination of Dracula and Cinderella. He was sucking his in-crowd dry and still was like a princess emerging from very humble beginnings in the Czech ghetto of Pittsburgh.

My exhibition was about his treasures which he hoarded in his mansion on 57 East 66th Street, Manhattan, New York. When Christies in 1988 sold the lot, it was over 10.000 different pieces in his collection, everything from cookie jars to tiaras and other precious things.

"A MANTRA IS SOMETHING
USED TO SPIRITUALLY REPROGRAM OURSELVES. THROUGH THE REPETITION OF THE WORD IT IS BELIEVED THAT WE CAN BECOME SOMETHING ELSE"

"A MANTRA IS SOMETHING
USED TO SPIRITUALLY REPROGRAM OURSELVES. THROUGH THE REPETITION OF THE WORD IT IS BELIEVED THAT WE CAN BECOME SOMETHING ELSE"

— You seem to depict a lot of themes of home, simple familiar environments. Where does this inspiration come from? And why do you explore this aesthetic?

— Our immediate surroundings (the home) is where we project our imagined self to ourselves and our guests. The home is a representation of who we want to be and what we want others to think of us. In a way, my work is like portraits of the contemporary humans.

— The work for Hermès is called "ModernMantra". In a sense, mantra is something universal and timeless, and from this perspective, what is "modern mantra"?

— A mantra is something used to spiritually reprogram our- selves. Through the repetition of the word it is believed that we can become something else. The "ModernMantra" is just a variation of this theme. But where does the voice originate? It could be an internal pro- cess, but also an external force constantly repeating the message. It is much more interesting to see the "ModernMantra" as existing, but not quite understood.
Interview: Étage Group
Photography: Seth PowerS
Date: June, 2015