Tomma Abts (born 1967) is a German-born visual artist who is particularly well known for her abstract oil paintings. Abts won the Turner Prize in 2006. The artist currently lives and works in London, England.
Starting each of her works without a preconceived idea, knowing only the size of the canvas and her materials, Abts works in acrylic and oil, often building up her designs from repetitive geometrical elements. Her style can be classified as abstract, but also in opposition to Germany’s Neo-Expressionist figurative painting. None of her paintings are representational. There are no references to nature, the world or any other theme. The abstraction in her paintings is supported by the lack of detail and an overall retro feel. The paintings do not follow the traditional rules of abstract art though. They involve complex shapes that are layered and woven in different ways with added highlights, shadows and sense of depth.
Abts used to work on canvasses of all sizes. Since the early 2000s, all of Abts’ paintings are 48 x 38 centimeters and the titles of her paintings are derived from a dictionary of German first names. She has said that this is the size and style that works for her.
Each work takes on a color scheme that is rich and somewhat neutral. The colors are not obviously vibrant and work with each other’s tones within each work of art.
Abts creates a 3D effect by continually and meticulously layering and working up each painting. The works are thickly painted, almost over-painted, which gives a hint of something created by trial and error. It seems as though the layers of paint could be covering up something underneath the finished product. “Abts approaches each canvas without preconception, building up layers of paint until a form crystallizes.” Abts takes a long time to produce her works, and she is not prolific.