Tobias Putrih, Contemporary Artist-Sculptor-Use of Everyday Materials

Tobias Putrih (2010) Alvorada 29th São Paulo Biennial, São Paulo 25 September – 12 December 2010
The iconic Palácio da Alvorada, the Brazilian presidential palace designed in 1958 by Oscar Niemeyer, consists of a continuous row of elegantly shaped columns wrapped around the building and mirrored in a shallow pond in front of it. The same columns are also a point of controversy – they are not structural but purely aesthetic architectural elements.The aim of Alvorada was to give these columns a new structural role, this time designing a make-shift enclosure – a public projection space hosting the biennale’s film program.

Tobias Putrih is an original and inventive artist who is known for his work with everyday materials such as cardboard, Styrofoam substances and plywood to produce a diverse range of fragile structures from small modular works to giant installations and cinema environments. He is also known for pushing the boundaries within his work to push the limits and build structures that stand precariously at angles, overhang and seem to be almost about to collapse. More recently Tobias Putrih has focused upon the creation of site-specific media installations that resemble the interior of a cinema. While they are not commercial objects, they are life size environments, where actual films are projected for audiences to watch. In using everyday materials such as paper, cardboard, tape, twist ties, and plastic foam to create he illustrates the value of such everyday materials in the construction of usable structures and installations that have something to say. These materials are often used to create Marquette’s, “A usually small model of an intended work, such as a sculpture or piece of architecture”. These often represent structures that are otherwise impossible to construct. In this way, Tobias Putrih breaks the conventions on which the relationships between users and their functional environment are commonly based.

Tobias Putrih – Macula Series Making sculptural installations using simple materials such as cardboard, paper, scotch tape and scaffolding, Tobias Putrih explores the way the collective imaginary manifests itself. He uses fractured forms as well as changes in floor levels and illumination to create a narrative pathway. The Macula Series is informed by the building process of imperfect execution and a series of accumulated mistakes. They are made of stacks of cardboard rings cut from patterns created as the artist tried to draw a perfect form and then gradually amplify his own deviations. Due to this process, the result is unpredictable.

Tobias Putrih (2007 onwards) Macula Series-Detail. Use of cardboard, stacked, and cut with various dimensions across the range.
Tobias Putrih (2007 onwards) Macula Series-Selection Illustrated. Use of cardboard, stacked, and cut with various dimensions across the range

Tobias Putrih noted “I don’t think art is about consistency. It’s about complexity … The key question for me is how to make an object that expresses its own self-doubt, questions its own existence.” — Tobias Putrih, in Tobias Putrih 99-07 (JRP/Ringier, 2007)

Tobias Putrih (2010) View of Siska International: Mixed Media Installation. Pompidou Centre, Paris

This artist is constantly intrigued and fascinated with process and the endless series of permutations that are possible when designing and constructing something so for Tobias Putrih something is always ongoing with the potential of further change. Putrih recognizes that vision and experimentation are required to produce both functional structures and provisional objects.


Through his artwork Tobias Putrih stated that “blueprints, maquettes, models—these are all representational forms that describe the structure and proposed function of something. I’m interested in these forms as substitutes through which we can explore the potentials of an idea. It is much easier for me to justify the production of an object if I can insist that it is not a finished thing but rather just a proposal for an object or architectural space that will probably never be built… for me to float an idea in a provisional form that can easily be remade or disposed of makes sense, because such makeshift objects still beg questions about their own existence.” (in Tobias Putrih 99-07)


From getting to know more about this artist and his work I am enthralled by his process and use of everyday materials, of his vision for their use and reuse within the realm of change. I am seeing cardboard afresh with its many possibilities for reuse within the arena of print and weave. I aim to utilise more cardboard in different ways going forward, to experiment with this materials response to print and weave within varying configurations.

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