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Anamorphic cubes and perspective define Thomas Medicus’s art practice

The Austrian artist’s public art installations draw attention to the strained relationship between humans and the environment, under the burden of spiralling climate change.

by Dilpreet BhullarPublished on : Apr 13, 2023

Perspective is crucial to art—the play of depth, layers and pattern orients the viewers towards hitherto unseen aspects. Besides form and shape as markers of perspective, the key question remains: how far will this empirical experience bring a shift in real life. In a similar spirit, Austrian artist Thomas Medicus, known for anamorphic cubes, strives to draw multiple perspectives, to nudge his audience towards having a kaleidoscopic perspective. Being well versed in the fields of illustration, animation, digital art, stained glass, restoration and conservation, as well as public art, Medicus deploys these practices to closely look at the relationship between humans and the environment.

Medicus studied social work at MCI Innsbruck before attending Glasfachschule Kramsach, a school for glass art. Working as a freelance artist, he was also employed at Tiroler Glasmalerei, a known name in the stained glass windows industry, for seven years. It was at the beginning of 2021 that he became completely independent and established Studio Medicus.

Black Smoker, 2022, illustration, Thomas Medicus | Thomas Medicus | STIRworld
Black Smoker, 2022, illustration Image: Thomas Medicus
Closer Look at Human Animal Binary, 2022, Installation, Thomas Medicus | Thomas Medicus | STIRworld
Closer look at Human Animal Binary, 2022, Installation Image: Thomas Medicus

As the age of the Anthropocene witnesses a gradual decay, the art installation Human Animal Binary highlights four fragmented illustrations of native animal species to Tyrol that have borne the brunt of climate change. The eclectic collection of images, of lynx, bee, kingfisher and river trout are interlocked within the surface of 144 glass strips in a cube-shaped space. Talking about the ideation process, Medicus tells STIR, “I have already used the technical principle of installation in several works. One day, however, I had the idea of linking the functioning of anamorphic cubes to the theme of biodiversity crisis: depending on the point of view, representations of endangered animal species would disintegrate or reassemble. The idea spawned a challenging design process: the two opposite representations of anamorphic cubes must always fill the same area so that the one in the back is exactly covered by the one in front. Additionally, I needed animals that are related to climate change or habitat destruction in Austria, and the animals should come from as diverse species as possible. So, I came up with river trout, lynx, bee, and kingfisher.”

Crystalis, 2023, sculptural installation, Thomas Medicus | Thomas Medicus | STIRworld
Crystalis, 2023, sculptural installation Image: Thomas Medicus

Given the nature of this public art, as the audience takes a view of the sculpture, these images change into ‘fragments of images and reassemble.’ This becomes a commentary on the cycle of birth and death of living creatures. The material of the human-made glass is in contrast to the natural habitat of the fauna. The tussle around which the human tribe finds itself is to build and thrive in a world that is antithetical to nature. The installation Human Animal Binary cajoles the audience to redesign these models of our existence to rise against the daunting effect of climate change.

Drawing on the forms of hydroelectric turbines, visual artist Medicus suspends the site-specific art installation EBBE at a decommissioned hydroelectric power plant in Innsbruck. The inherent quality of glass allows the installation to reflect the surroundings, which in turn becomes a symbolic gesture of the ebb and flow of water energy. The tension between the glass and mirror images underscores the contrast that runs between ecology and industrial development.

Geodesic Cuboid, 2021, Glass sculpture, Thomas Medicus | Thomas Medicus | STIRworld
Geodesic Cuboid, 2021, Glass sculpture Image: Thomas Medicus

Talking about the relation between material glass and the title of the work EBBE, Medicus shares, “The main reason why I used mirrors for the installation, EBBE, was the site-specific nature of the work. The turbine hall of the disused hydroelectric power plant is an impressive space, which at the same time has a very specific aesthetic. Therefore, mirrors were particularly suitable for the installation, as they could ideally adapt to the particular environment.”

In addition to this, a pragmatic reason for using mirrors was also prompted by its usage. On one hand, glass suited the industrial character of the hall because of its hardness and heaviness, and on the other hand, the water-like nature of glass played into the theme of hydroelectric power. The installation is an attempt to renew the importance towards hydropower energy in the face of low energy and unstable water levels.

Closer Look at Ebbe, 2022, installation, Thomas Medicus | Thomas Medicus | STIRworld
Closer look at Ebbe, 2022, installation Image: Thomas Medicus

While Medicus’s installations are synonymous with anamorphic cubes, another defining feature of his art practice is the placement of the installation, i.e. open in public spaces. “Art in public space is an exciting field,” confesses Medicus, “especially since it brings people into contact with art much more by chance than, for example, in a gallery.” Public space is a porous place of political debate and social processes where artistic interventions are inevitably put into place to talk about difficult issues. However, Medicus is cognisant of the fact that “the art in public space brings with it technical requirements such as size, stability or weather resistance.”

Human Animal Binary Video: Courtesy of 5k Digitalfilm and Fest

At the core of artistic work produced by Medicus is the visual experiential aspect. “I think it is important that the artwork itself moves something in me and the viewer, that it is interesting in a way, for example by creating an in-between,” confides Medicus.

Thomas Medicus’ Portrait | Thomas Medicus | STIRworld
Artist Thomas Medicus Image: Stefanie Kirschner

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