Thomas  Werk


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It is both a powerful and compelling idea to create an abstract angel of monumental proportions, which will watch valiantly over the former death zone along the Berlin Wall in close proximity to the famous Chapel of Reconciliation. This place steeped in history is an ill omen in people’s minds. An unshakable guardian angel at this site in our city could be a prominent symbol for the boundless power of faith and would add a new tone to the “culture of remembrance” in this city.

Georg Kardinal Sterzinsky

Archbishop of Berlin, April 2006


The work of the Berlin painter and sculptor Thomas Werk envisions a sculptural image inside urban space. To the assets of this sculpture belong the minimalist approach, the artistic reduction to a minimum of contour, volume and color. The design is remarkable in that it brings no distracting ornamental elements into play. The observer is not disturbed by an extravagance or profuseness of materials. This work of art avoids any complaisance of poor taste; it shows aesthetics of extreme simplicity, whereby simplicity is by no means banality, but rather radical reduction. The radical reduction in form calls for quietude; it propagates reticence and earnestness in the midst of today’s effusive flood of images and words.

Christhard-Georg Neubert

St. Matthäus Foundation, Berlin, July 2006  


Thomas Werk’s conceptual design of an angel monument picks up on one of the earliest motifs in occidental art. He frees his work from the ballast of kitsch from an earlier period and translates it into a directly plausible archetypical image-vocabulary that anyone can understand. Stylization to an unadorned figure made up of geometrical archetypes (cuboids and spheres) renders the ideal link between figuration and abstraction. Hence the angel is not degraded to a human-like ordinariness, nor is it reduced to a mere imaginary creature of fantasy. More accurately, Thomas Werk allows the angel to be that which it has always been in the Judeo-Christian tradition: A real being that announces God’s will and guards and protects us humans.

Dr. Jakob Johannes Koch

German Bishops` Conference, Bonn, April 2007


Its unusual dimension - a height of 15 meters more or less is planned - confirms at once the monumental demand of Werk’s sculpture for urban public space.  This sculptural image does not just want to be integrated into urban space; it wants to intervene. Its forms are extremely simple, almost archaic in their reduction to geometric archetypes. Circle, square, and rectangle create a three-dimensional, block-like space and imply by means of unembellished abstraction an upright standing figure with widespread arms or wings. Cross and triptych possibly come to mind…This sculpture desires to be a public sign - a discreet but highly visible Christian symbol, firmly grounded in the city of Berlin and reaching into the heaven over Berlin.

Dr. Christine Goetz

Archbishopric Berlin
, April 2007


What makes these works so equally disturbing and appealing is that they elude an explicit narration. In spite of or perhaps even due to this simplicity, they are far too complex to be interpreted by a single point…We live here by faith, one day we shall live by sight, the apostle Paul says. Time and again we embark on a journey to encounter God and have to fend with ambiguity, disturbances and errors, yes, even with doubts and uncertainty; but then, in light we will see God and the old will have passed away. The symbolism and signs used by Thomas Werk demonstrate a vivid and sensitive respect for the temporal as well as the eternal for which we hope…  

Christhard-Georg Neubert

St. Matthäus Foundation, Berlin
, June 2007  



"Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible."  This often quoted remark belongs to the essential and eminent programmatic statements of art history of the 20th century. It was the painter Paul Klee who wrote this lapidary and yet powerful sentence in the year 1918, at the start of his artistic career, which he termed his “Creative Confession”. “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible"  - this was explosive in the context of the beginning of the 20th century. For with it he challenged categorically and radically the principle of reproduction in the fine arts that had been valid for centuries. It had to do with the autonomy of artistic media and the liberation of the intellectual from the constraints of object and material. It was the birthday of abstract art. That was 100 years ago, but it is worthwhile quoting Paul Klee again and again, especially today in this place. The artistic works of Thomas Werk (born 1971 in former East-Berlin), which starting today are exhibited in this lovely church, are linked closely to that quote. It is the sober yet lofty tone in Paul Klee’s words: both are crucial power moments in the works of Thomas Werk, the lapidary and the revelation, the sobriety and the lofty standard - making the invisible visible. This means the refusal to illustrate visible objective reality. All works shown here today have a Christian or religious inspiration as starting point. There are 33 exhibited works of which seven sculptures are made of steel, one of wood, and 25 paintings…
All pieces have been given a title by the artist: “Sermon on the Mount”, “Cup of Sorrow”, “Forgiveness”, "Prayer", "Crucifix", "Pieta", "The Resurrected One" und "Heaven Open", just to name a few…All of Thomas Werk’s works are free figurations, that allow an association to real objects, but never reproduce or illustrate visible objects. The paintings are emblematic and gestural forms with surrounding areas on wide surfaces. The sculptures create their own spaces through three-dimensionality… Whether painted or sculptured in three dimensions, whether dynamic or immobile, they create spaces of imagination. They don’t tell us anything we already know; they command nothing - these “Signs and Paths” - the title of this exhibition - they are in fact seeking something. The visual energy needed to seek form and expression in these emblematic works contains a powerful moment of deep inner stirring. That means that every picture - for example the one depicted on the invitation  - "I’ll tell you about my ways” based on Psalm 119 - testifies to being deeply stirred… Through a close-up view it becomes clear that no preparatory drawings were necessary, because the search of which we just spoke is an approach, prepared in thought and emotions, and then rendered in quick process to the resulting image. Inspired and influenced by words from the Gospels (Sermon on the Mount, Golgotha and others) or by the stirring poetry of the Psalms - these words the artist has penciled on the surface of the picture in tiny, narrow, hardly noticeable lettering. They are pictorial codes and paraphrases, from which sensitivity, brush in hand, paper and a specific point in time all come together in a concentrated, energetic, quick and exceedingly precise act. Each picture is a risky venture, for the result is not rectifiable. The artist can throw it away or accept it, but not correct it. It happens. That means that what we see here on these walls are happenings, testimonies of being inwardly stirred, and hence testimonies of vulnerability and difficulty, which, by the way, are fundamental moments of faith. There is no faith without inner poignancy and hardship…
The figurations - blocks, circles, and bars - often have no firm contours; they fray out, they open up, they leave behind spots and splatters of paint. They are imperfect and seek something in the wide area of the picture. Who knows the paths?
The minimalized use of color is conspicuous… Thomas Werk gets by in effect with two colors: rust red and black, no beautiful shining colors. They are rather dull and lusterless, and even the bold, but seldom used yellow is mixed in a dark shade, as to deliberately avoid brilliancy…The rust red is a common wood preservation lacquer from Sweden, very durable…Black is from the same matrix…Hence the art pieces take on a sternness and exude not only an amazing force, but also benefit the eye of the beholder, in contrast to the obtrusive “image noise” so abundant in our urban spaces today…
Thomas Werk’s works are ascetic; they are fasting. Pictures and sculptures alike have something meager and reticent about them, and in this abstentious asceticism there lies an enigma, calligraphic preciosity made from insignificant materials…"

Dr. Christine Goetz

Art Commissioner of the Archbishopric of Berlin; from opening speech at the opening of the exhibition SIGNS AND PATHS, Kirche Am Hohenzollernplatz, 20 September 2008


Monumental thinking has had a sustainable influence on the present day. Humankind tries to control nature and history and creates thereby a world of destruction. "Angel", "Prayer" und "Praying Hands"  - works of the Berlin artist Thomas Werk  - stand in the intersection of these existential tensions. These monuments speak of a great longing for peace, truth and spiritual strength. At the same time they are a sign from another world that can give our life direction and wisdom. Where should they be situated? In our landscapes and cities as a testimony of our esteem and respect for vulnerable creation…

Dr. Bernward Konermann


Star of Bethlehem

The expectations in the nation of Israel were quite different. In this sense the sculpture is similar to the Star of Bethlehem. It is hard to understand, like the sign from heaven, and awaits an interpretation. Divine FullnessWith this radically simple geometric form the artist tries to grant expression to the secret of Christmas. It has to do with the incarnation of God, the union of God and humankind in Jesus Christ. In him heaven and earth touch each other, the Infinite with the finite. The circle permeated from all sides catches our eye. It unites, holds and bundles together. Concentrated energy can be perceived. In its consolidation without beginning and end it is a symbol for God. In the otherwise empty center three square ingots cross or inter-penetrate. They seem to intersect the circle with sheer force, to fill and define the center…Symbolically speaking, the two standing beams form an X and point to the first letter of the Greek sovereign title for Jesus: "Christos" - "Anointed One" (Hebrew "Messiah"). The horizontal massive beam is evocative of the cross and hence of the death of Jesus. The rays are a result of the beams having crossed through the circle, after the agonizing suffering. They announce firstly the glory that comes from God and secondly the humiliation and limitation of human violence. An Expectant VoidThe pedestal on which the massive star rests resembles a simple house with a solid, continuous base and short end walls that slant to form a roof, circumscribing an almost triangular open space. This house radiates openness and at the same time security and protection. Everything seems to be prepared for the arrival: In the horizontals we perceive the manger, in the slanting beams that meet in the center of the circle we sense symbolically Mary and Joseph, who bend toward one another in expectation. God has come visibly to rest upon this house in the form of a star to give the yet invisible reality a protected space, for Mary and Joseph await this night the birth of divine Light. This star over Bethlehem shines restrainedly. But doesn’t it already reflect the light of another Light source that by now illuminates the night? FulfillmentAfter such contemplation, Thomas Werk’s steel sculpture conjures up more thoughts than could at first be expected. Simple elements allow the well-known to be seen in new context. Rooted in matter, the elements express the metaphysical, the invisible, the essence that characterize that holy night. These insights would be incomplete, however, if they would comprehend the star only from the perspective of the work’s title. For the entire sculpture can also be viewed as a standing figure whose arms are depicted by the ends of the horizontal beams. The strong simplification probably allows for more than the two approaches already explained. Through the massive, angular construction, the figure appears on the one hand to have a wide, cumbersome stance like a resistance fighter with a strongly armored abdomen. On the other hand the two verticals could be seen as two figures that bend backwards and embrace each other in the center, holding their “heads” over the circle to look at each other. From this viewpoint the horizontal beams become a burden that pervades the mutual spheres of life of both figures. Together they can stem the weight and persevere through the strength that is implied in the circle. Thus the star could point to the fact that the star of Bethlehem is also the star over my house and over my life. It’s existence would not only announce the arrival of the divine Child, but also the protective and strengthening presence of God – from the cradle to the key times of life to the grave. Always present in the center of life, ever-present where the fullness of life is carried through love’s encounters.

This art reflection was initially published in "das münster" (4/2007 issue), the magazine for Christian art, aesthetics and art history.

Patrik Scherrer; Stern von Bethlehem; 5.01.2008


Can such uncomplicated geometrical figures point to God? Can they speak symbolically of a vis-á-vis that reveals itself in a three-fold nature and the personhoods Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Can the basic abstract forms be attributed to these three concepts of God?Because the square and circle stand as partners next to each other, they can be interpreted as symbols for the Father and the Son. The triangle linking the two indicates the Holy Spirit, who according to the Creed emanates from the Father and the Son. Now whether the circle or the square symbolizes the Father or the Son depends on the interpretation: On the one hand, the circle could represent the Son, because he is painted as closest to us. Through him and in the Holy Spirit we have access to the Father who has created the world and can be symbolized by a square representing the four points of the compass and alluding to the universe. But it could also be exactly the opposite. The circle, because it has no beginning and no end, could represent the Father, who is from eternity, and together with the Son and Holy Spirit has created life. The square would be the symbol for the Son, because he took on earthly form, becoming a man in our world. All are attempts to bring the incomprehensibility of God into our imagination by means of symbols. It astonishes how agreeably the abstract figures bring to life the abstract concept of God. But can the forms also be interpreted in a down-to-earth, human fashion? Most of us relate emotionally the circle, the rounded form, to the woman and the rectangle to the man. And ideally, man and woman stand together on equal footing next to each other. Could it be so interpreted that the “higher” triangle that binds the two “earthly beings” together is the symbol for the divine Trinity, the transcending and uniting echelon from which love flows – to one another and, beyond that partnership, to God and to one’s neighbors?

Patrik Scherrer

Trinity; 9.6.20

The Good Samaritan

Without help it would probably not occur to us that this linear figure could be the Good Samaritan. The outlines allow for other connotations such as a foot or a head. The brownish black band that dominates the artwork seems to have been applied to the paper with a wide pen: Beginning strokes are recognizable and the out-flowing shades of color give the impression that the lines were made with one stroke of the pen. The band introduces the most important aspect of the picture. A tree-like figure is developed on a relatively small basis that doubles in the middle and then takes on many curves. At three points the three short bands send out rays from the basic figure. Is one person being portrayed or is it two? The two horseshoe-like arches in the upper left suggest the heads of two persons. The two circular forms in the center of the picture suggest hands, and when we also observe the implied legs, we can then recognize an erect person  moving toward the left and carrying another person pickaback. In the Bible we are told that the Samaritan had pity on the man beaten by robbers. In his mercy he stopped his journey and dismounted, bent over the injured man in order to nurse his wounds with oil and wine, and then brought him to an inn where he could be further cared for (Luke 10:30-35).In comparison the Samaritan here is portrayed as the one who carries the injured man. Does he not demonstrate his mercy in taking charge of the other man, and does he not also put a burden on himself as well as on his animal? And it even seems as though he has burdened himself with three other persons who need his supporting help. Surprisingly, the Good Shepherd is also recognizable in the portrayed form as the One who searches for his lost sheep and when he has found it tired and injured, brings it home on his shoulders. (Luke 15:5). Both forms are congruent with the fundamental attitude of sympathy and compassion (from the Greek syn + pathein = with pity)…It is not without good reason that Jesus used the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example for the teachers of the Mosaic law to express that they too (and we as well) should go and do likewise (Luke 10:36-37).I already mentioned that the band introduces the essential aspect of the picture. Metaphorically speaking, it expresses that compassion – the heart full of mercy and sympathy – is the strength that overcomes all imaginable barriers and brings people together in a new sense of solidarity.

Patrik Scherrer

The Good Samaritan; 15.7.2006


Essence, the essential reality is depicted. Notable integrity and a respectful position of distance lie herein, as seen in his approach to the figure of Jesus of Nazareth, and above all, in his approach to the Trinity. The art of reduction into an individual visual language pervades all of his artwork. It allows the space alluded to through figures to be expanded from the recognizable of the here and now into the depths of transcendence... With his technique, a few brush strokes on paper, Thomas Werk brings modern-day humanity discreetly and undogmatically closer to the essence of the Christian message. With contemporary perception and means of expression he turns the well known into something new. Each of his works is therefore a guidepost to Christian themes – on a highly artistic level. Thus he works in the spirit of Josef Beuys who never wanted to see a work of art for itself alone, but always in a definite context. Tastefulness, zestfulness, superficial beauty – these are phrases that do not fit the artwork of Thomas Werk. Rather truth and clarity are that which radiate from them, that which is important to the artist. Truth has its own beauty, and in this sense his artwork is beautiful, very beautiful.

Dr. Irmtraud Kulzer

Würzburg, June 2008