• Fabienne Nemoz

Interview with Tilmann Zahn


Tilmann Zahn
Tilmann Zahn


Where are you from? Where are you living today?

I come from Germany and grew up in Düsseldorf. I lived there until I was 20 and then came to Basel via Freiburg. Now I have been living in Switzerland for many years.


When did you start to create paper artwork?

I was about 22 or 23 when I experimented with paper for the first time, but at first it was only about colouring. It was about creating a mysterious, dark patina with spatial depth, which I needed to express my grief over the loss of a loved one. For about ten years it stayed that way - I didn't pursue it until the next big loss came along, and that was the real breakthrough for my particular technique, which I have been developing permanently ever since.


What was at the beginning? What was the trigger that led you to create art?

I have been painting intensively since I was 10 years old and was inspired by the wonderful exhibitions of contemporary art that were on show in Düsseldorf in the 1970s. You have to know that artists like Joseph Beuys, Günther Uecker, Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Gerhard Richter were active in Düsseldorf at that time - so that was a great time. As a small child, I went with my parents several

times a year to exhibitions of new art in which these artists were also represented. Oftenly I was deeply impressed, sometimes almost shaken - a state that is difficult to describe.

Something that was already deep inside me was obviously awakened, and then I processed these impressions at home in my small room - mostly on paper that was so big that it just fit between the wall and my bed. Only much later I realised how formative this time was for me. Oftenly it was frustrating to see that my efforts with crayon and watercolours did not come close to what I had imagined. When I was about 13, I started taking photographs, also very intensively. I also had my own photo lab.


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