Thomas von Palubitzki: On Materials and Form

Thomas von Palubitzki’s signature flatworks hover somewhere in between a wall relief and a painting, adding visual intrigue for the viewer.

by Heather Zises

Black Relief no. 4, 2016, Bottle Caps & Acrylic on Canvas, 23.5″ x 19.5″

German artist Thomas von Palubitzki creates minimalist compositions with maximal visual impact. Using the everyday bottle cap as his muse, he translates ubiquity and versatility into essential forms that populate his artworks. Working across a variety of media, von Palubitzki looks to quiet tones and distilled shapes as the basis for his creativity. Adhering to the conceits of Minimalism, the artist constructs compositions that look mass produced, without any formal images.  His signature flatworks hover somewhere in between a wall relief and a painting, adding visual intrigue for the viewer.

As a self-taught artist, von Palubitzki began drawing intensively in his youth which landed him in the world of fashion illustration. This area of interest quickly expanded into graphic design and photography as he searched to define his personal style and means of expression. The artist offers, “I was looking for something new, self-sufficient and with high recognition value. Techniques with which I could develop my own visual language. I think the crown cork helped me with that process. I knew I had hit something when I found a slightly rusted bottle cap with two portraits on it.”  From then on, all of von Palubitzki’s creativity became focused upon hundreds of little metal discs, creating artwork that is minimal, distinctive and concise. For the artist, bottle caps represent the quotidian as they pass through countless hands, including his.

Perhaps borrowing from Robert Rauschenberg’s Shamanic idea of generating art from whatever is around, the artist mines the internet and beverage companies in southern Germany for scores of bottle caps (both pristine and used) that are destined for an elevated calling. Over the years, the artist has ordered so many bottle caps from manufactures that he jokes they must think he runs an independent brewery named TVP. For reliefs or works with a lot of colors, he tends to use bottle caps that are used or recycled as their appearance can afford to be more forgiving. Once in hand, the placement of the bottle caps within von Palubitzki’s compositions vary. Their arrangement is determined by his daily mood and the loudest idea in his head at that moment. Like a spontaneous party, the best ideas surface unexpectedly.

Multicolor, 2021, Bottle Caps in 231 Different Resin Varnish Color & Dispersion Color on Canvas, 79″ x 67″

Taking a bold approach to uncertainty, von Palubitzki welcomes the blank canvas. He views it as a void without boundaries to create something new. Similar to conceptual Pop artist Ed Ruscha who once stated in an interview that disorientation is one of the best things about making art, von Palubitzki believes that there are unlimited possibilities on ways to penetrate depths of space. “This creates the feeling as if one is floating, which is great!” he says. To avoid the monotony of Minimalism, the artist deliberately varies his compositions so that his art will continue to evolve. Whether working with serial repetition like System (2021) or with disparate bottle caps like Adhesions no. 2 (2018), von Palubitzki is constantly creating variations on a theme.  His compositions also flirt with OpArt in the sense that certain configurations of the bottle caps create the illusion of a pixelated screen such as Multicolor, 2021 or Monochrome Points (Sunset), 2021. Other reliefs conjure up various stages of entomology like flies in Swarm 2021 or moth homes in Cocoons, 2017.

Circular with crimped edges, the instantly recognizable bottle cap creates three-dimensional effects that result in textured fields or curious shadows that spontaneously arise during the creative process. The ambiguity created by the found object’s abstractness becomes a new form in which the artist continues to explore. In addition to including bottle caps on the surfaces of his paintings and sculptures, von Palubitzki also uses them as a tool to create texture. One question he always asks himself is how he can incorporate the found object into his works. “I realized early on what possibilities the small bottle cap offered. I wanted to implement as many ideas quickly, and I wanted to be recognized as an artist on the canvas, without having to sign the work on the front. I’m inspired by art that uses simple means to identify the artist. The “deep blue” of Yves Klein, Keith Haring’s “stick figures”, or the “nails” of Günter Ücker,” he says.

Unfinished Work no. 2, 2021, Bottle Caps & Acrylic on Canvas, 59″ x 47″

Although he considers each work autonomous, von Palubitzki often works in series to generate an ongoing dialogue between images. As such, he is driven by the question of how he can create solutions to his vision of bottle caps, colors and shapes so that each of his works compliments the other while all blending together seamlessly. All of his paintings and sculptures are designed so that each stands on its own or finds a place next to another work. Von Palubitzki believes that less is more when painting, therefore not much is needed to achieve a great effect.  When it comes to titling his artworks, it is usually the last step in the process. “Sometimes I have ideas for two works in mind where I want to make structures on large canvases, with skin color, and with artificial blood. “Large Skin Picture” and “Large Blood Picture.” In such a case, the titles are planned in advance.

Currently, von Palubitzki is part of Summer Solstice: Luminescence, a group exhibition of paintings and photographs welcoming the incoming festival season, through the lens of light, color and form at Agora Gallery. The artists featured in this exhibition take us on a journey from darkness to light, chaos to simplicity – a healing pilgrimage that takes us further from the artificiality of this world back to our natural roots. When asked how he thinks his work fits with the theme, von Palubitzki shares, “Very well. Seasons are a continuum of light and dark…I like the idea of change. Not standing still and staying in motion, but everything in a controlled rhythm. Serial repetition is like a wave of light. Textures, light, and shadow in black, white, and bright colors become symbiotic.”

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Thomas’s work is on view at the gallery until June 24. To learn more about the artist, visit his dedicated page.



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