Thomas Neumann’s pictures can be seen where Munich is at its most Bavarian: in the Wiesn festival tent and in the “Wirtshaus am Nockherberg”. He also reveals his favourite Munich neighbourhood
Artist Thomas Neumann
Was this really once a garage? With its wall panelling made of dark, old wood, an antique cupboard full of painting materials and the beautiful wooden table, the car garage in the Munich suburb of Oberschleißheim looks more like a mountain hut. “Supposedly”, laughs Thomas Neumann, inviting us into his studio.
“In this atmosphere, I can simply paint well.” The Munich native is an advertising designer – and painter. His grand theme is Bavarian customs. His favourite paintings are Dirndl and Lederhosen, cows and mountains, the Schuhplattler dance and lumberjacks. Not as clichés, nor as a respectful nod to the past, but because he sees symbols of a very lively Bavarian identity in his designs.
“The traditional costume, for example, is still very present in our times. It preoccupies me that a style of dress so old can still make such a strong statement today.”
Guaranteed kitsch-free Bavarian customs
Neumann doesn’t paint kitsch pictures of traditional costumes. He alienates his themes by slight abstraction. The forms become blurred; you never see people’s heads. He has painted pictures of young men in Lederhosen, their shirt sleeves rolled up, their hands thrust into their trouser pockets. Only one is holding something in his hand – it could be a mobile phone.
And although you can’t see their faces, Neumann manages in this picture to convey a portrait of youth, its close association with Bavaria, the self-assurance with which young people are deeply rooted in their identity.
“Of course, I could also paint faces”, admits the artist. “That’s well within my technical ability. But faces are distracting. And I want to focus the attention of the viewer on something else. In this case on the costume.”
Art for the beer tent
"The traditional costume is still very present in our times."
Thomas Neumann’s pictures can be seen where Munich for him is at its most Bavarian: in the “Golden Rooster” festival tent at the Oktoberfest, for example, which he furnishes with around 60 of his works every year. Or in the fireside lounge of the legendary “Wirtshaus am Nockherberg”, a Munich institution where the famous strong beer tapping takes place every year during Lent.
Neumann’s artistic contribution to the centre of Johanneskirchen near Munich is also very needs-oriented: there he designed all the signs on the maypole. He is also recently making headway in the theatre world: for the Haimhauser Kulturkreis, he painted the stage design for the play “Haimhauser Ball der Vampire” – “a real challenge, because the canvas was 80 square metres!”
The Munich-born artist is more of a painter. In his main profession, he works as a freelance advertising designer with his own agency. “I need both in my life”, admits Neumann with a wink. “When things get hectic at the agency, painting becomes a haven. On the other hand, if I only painted, my head would feel empty and I would miss the creative pressure.”
Home means returning to yourself
The agency job with its many clients takes Thomas Neumann on trips around the world. But he always loves coming back to Munich. “I never really wanted to leave here”, he admits. “Munich is my home, and for me, home means coming back to oneself.”
Munich's Magic Mix: Surfboard and Charivari
The artist enjoys being out and about in his city – visiting a Biergarten, scouring flea markets for Bavarian trinkets such as charivaris, old Lederhosen, wood carvings. “I also like the English Garden, where ageing hippies sunbathe naked, in between businessmen in suits and young guys in Lederhosen on their way to Eisbach with flip-flops and surfboards. That’s my Munich, my Bavaria.”
... from Thomas
My favourite district is Giesing, the former rough-and-ready district. Today I find what we had many years ago in Schwabing. A real insider’s Munich. Here tradition is lived in a very casual, young way. In shops like Karusa on Humboldtstraße, which sells handmade and regional products, but in modern and casual style. You can also notice it at the Strong Beer Festival, where the participants are getting younger again. And with the Giesinger Bräu, there is now even a district brewery!
Beer and Oktoberfest Museum
An absolute insider tip for me is the Beer and Oktoberfest Museum on Isartorplatz. Even Munich residents don’t know it. It lies totally hidden in the city’s oldest town house. So you not only learn something about Munich’s beer culture, but also about the lifestyle. Very exciting.
The Karl-Valentin Museum is a must-see. Because it’s absurd. Because Karl Valentin was a revolutionary in difficult times who did not lose his sense of humour. This humour is very special and maybe not everybody gets it. I like him.
valentin-musaeum.de (only in German)