Border Crosser on the Edge of the Mainstream – Jens Thiele

Jens Thiele; photo: private A freelance artist and “part-time illustrator”, Jens Thiele regularly commits “magazine murder at my desk”. The results are beautiful postmodern collages in which the fractures, fissures and ambiguities of human existence resonate.

It all started in London. There Jens Thiele came across a picture that haunted him: John Kirby’s Boy in a Black Dress. Although Thiele is a graduate of an art academy and a trained artist, the academic career that followed his graduation left him little time for art: “I didn’t know how I should go about starting again”. Thiele discovered the collage on his own, and then inspired by Kirby created a picture, out of which a story emerged step by step. Jo im roten Kleid (i.e., Jo in the Red Dress) finally appeared in 2004. Assuming the role of an artist, especially in circles in which he was hitherto known and esteemed as a theorist and professor of visual media, was hard at first. Thiele submitted his then still unpublished Jo for the Oldenburg Children’s and Young People’s Book Prize under a pseudonym. He won the prize – and his cover was blown.

Meanwhile, in addition to Jo in the Red Dress, Thiele has illustrated four books, partly written by him: Der Junge, der die Zeit anhielt (i.e., The Boy Who Stopped Time), Erlkönig (i.e., Erl-King), Wenn auf den grünen Hügeln (i.e., If On the Green Hills) and Die Füße im Feuer (i.e., Feet in the Fire). His technique remains the collage. Thiele is a postmodern illustrator who varies styles and materials and resists unambiguousness. His collages are a potpourri of references and allusions – each piece of paper used brings with it a certain style, a certain theme. As sources he uses “luxury lifestyle magazines”; they combine high quality paper with good, impressive photographs. He riffles through them and cuts them up into a mess of paper scraps: “My greatest enemy is the wind”, says Thiele, laughing about his method of work.

Jens Thiele is an exceptional artist who captivates the viewer with a wonderful, highly innovative pictorial language. And the effect of his stories reverberates: in 2012 Jo in the Red Dress was staged as a play.

Gesa Husemann
The author studied comparative literature, English and sociology at the Universities of Göttingen and London. She was head of the online magazine for literary criticism until June 2012 and now works in the Department of Literature and Translation at the Goethe-Institut in Munich.

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
May 2013

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