Stefan Thiel

by Marta Gnyp for ZOO #36

At first look, German artist Stefan Thiel’s fascination for fashion seems to be rooted in his attraction for objects of beauty, the most classical field of visual arts. For his fashion series, Thiel has made ostensibly outmoded portraits of isolated objects such as a bag, a belt, or a model presenting the accessory.

Thiel’s technique involves precise and elaborate black paper cut-outs that are set against a monochrome white or grey background. This gives the work a clean quality, emphasizing the contours and only suggesting the content. At the same time, the artist’s works deceive the eye: they look like photographs. This technique allows him to create clearly defined shapes while avoiding any emotional involvement. By directing all the attention to the object as such Thiel stresses its fetish character and our growing fascination with the fashion fetishes: bags and clothes become the ultimate objects of desire, surrounded by the aura of beauty and success. Thiel plays not only with our senses, but also with our cultural conditioning: we recognize immediately both the object and the brand behind it.

And still, the objects Thiel shows are thrillingly beautiful; they defy the temporality of the fashion and become timeless thanks to their fetish character and perfect shape. Their usefulness is rendered useless, thereby functioning more as a symbol. Fashion aims to create identities. Thiel subtly demonstrates that in the today’s world, the brand itself becomes the ultimate defining identity.