Tobias Gutmann is hard to define, his body of work includes installations, music videos, publications and workshops at places like the Pompidou in Paris and for clients like Hermès, yet throughout his work Tobias elevates the human experience in a light-hearted, compelling way.
Could you briefly describe your upbringing in Papau New Guinea, your move to Zurich, and how these places have shaped your life?
I was born and raised in Papua New Guinea until I was 13 years old, spoke german with my parents, Tok Pisin with the locals and english at school. The multicultural environment really influenced my childhood and in a way still does today. Zürich is currently my home base. It's a great place to live, but I still love to be surrounded by people from all kinds of cultures.
At what point was it that you first considered yourself an artist? Was this a defining moment for you?
I used to see myself as an illustrator, designer or visual artist, but all these definitions limit myself in how I see my work. I guess I am just myself, but if there is a word that describes what I do, then artist is probably the closest. :-)
Do you have a major source of inspiration or does it seem to be a combination of what is going on around you?
Everything inspires me! Sometimes it's a conversation with a friend, or music, or the weather, but most of my inspirations come when I travel.
What are you into? Any hobbies other than your art work?
Meditation! I just discovered an empty Church near my Studio. Every morning, I try to stop by for a quiet moment, then I start to sing. :-) It's an great start in the day.
I really enjoy your sweater designs how did you get into that? What other mediums do you enjoy working in?
Since roughly 6 years, I collect knitted sweaters from thrift shops. At some point I just wanted to design my own and I like the idea of people wearing my art. The Ramen sweater is still available in a limited edition through my website. Currently I am also working on some sculptures. I'm interested in taking my mostly 2-dimensional work into the space around me and create room installations.
What are the steps to your process for designing? How do you approach commissioned work differently than your own personal projects?
I try to only work on projects I am extremely passionate about.
I don’t differentiate between commissioned and personal projects. Some of my work is commissioned, but all of my work is personal.
I feel obliged to ask about Face-O-Mat simply because of it’s uniqueness. How did this contraption/concept evolve and come to life? What an amazing experience you’ve created, connecting so many people.
I started Face-o-mat because I wanted to draw portraits an create an experience around it. People loved it, so I continued. Then suddenly I started traveling with it and it became a way to explore the world. For every performance I try to expand the Face-o-mat universe. Recently at Centre Pompidou in Paris, I built an igloo out of 200 white cardboard boxes, the space inside the igloo allowed me to fully focus on each person and draw their portrait.