Christiaan Tonnis

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Christiaan Tonnis
Christiaan Tonnis by Peter Braunholz.jpg
Christiaan Tonnis, 2012
Born (1956-06-05) 5 June 1956 (age 58)
Saarbrücken, West Germany
Nationality German
Education Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach
Known for Painting, Video Art
Notable work Virginia Woolf, William S. Burroughs (1998)
Movement Contemporary art

Christiaan Dirk Tonnis (born June 5, 1956, Saarbrücken, Germany) is a German symbolist/realist painter, draftsman, video artist and published author. He studied at the HfG Offenbach with Dieter Lincke and Herbert Heckmann(de), and lives in Frankfurt, Germany.


Tonnis’ works are "supported with psychological knowledge"[1] His earliest drawings reflect his interest in psychoanalysis and psychopathology such as, catatonic rigidity or the postnatal psychosis depicted in his 1980–85 collection. To "show the psychic as a second face" he "uses stitchings, masks and fragments of masks—they are sometimes barely visible"[2]

Magic Mountain (after Thomas Mann), 1987, Oil on canvas

In 1986, he started to paint landscapes from literature like the "Magic Mountain (after Thomas Mann)" and portraits of writers and philosophers. E.g. "he stylizes the philosopher Wittgenstein to a sketchy Icon of a soulless prominence. An almost gruesome picture, expressive in its amply color scheme of white, grey and black, almost like a mold of a Hippocratic face"[3]

Since 2003 his work has become more meditative: "Geometric patterns in bright colors",[4] consistent with Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol) and New Testament—the series of minimalistic "Meditation pictures".

"Catwalk!" was exhibited at the Showroom Eulengasse in Frankfurt, Germany in 2007. The exhibition consisted of a series of collages created of cats' heads on women's bodies. The most recognizable bodies are those of Virginia Woolf "with big, sad eyes" and Kate Moss.[5]

In 2006 Tonnis set up a MySpace page dedicated to Thomas Bernhard, using pictures tell his biography. The theme of the page was Bernhard's motto "In the darkness everything becomes clear."

In 2008 Tonnis started to contribute reviews on art to the style magazine Dazed Digital, London.[6]

2009: During the "Sommeratelier" at Kunstverein Familie Montez, Frankfurt,[7] he created a painting for the performance "Who let the dogs out, Edith?". This "experimental collage of different media and arts" has been a dialogue with Heinrich von Kleist's play Penthesilea, directed by Hans-Jürgen Syberberg in 1988 with actress Edith Clever.[8]

With the mural of a golden cross on black and violet ground—divided into pixels—Tonnis has been one of 36 international artists who designed the "Pixelkitchen" in January 2013, a tiled room of 177.2 inches height at the Günes Theatre in Frankfurt.[9] "All these artworks are glued, painted or nailed onto the walls."[10]

Tonnis' work is displayed in international publications to illustrate articles, essays, enzyklopedic entrys, etc.[11][12][13]


Thomas Bernhard's House, Video, 2006, Photography, 1992
William S. Burroughs, Video / Laserprint, 2008

Tonnis started to make videos in 2006. His subjects have included William S. Burroughs, Thomas Bernhard and the poet Georg Trakl. Alongside these works stand the video series of "Dreams", "Electrical Pictures", and animals—exhibiting a pop, surreal pictorial language, often humorously staged.


  • 2006 Christiaan Tonnis, "Krankheit als Symbol", Berlin Pro Business, 1. Edition 2006-11-03, ISBN 978-3-939533-34-4
  • 2013 "ROT" – Axel Dielmann-Verlag, Frankfurt, p. 15-16, 145, 148-149, 15, ISBN 978-3-86638-180-3
  • 2014 "Montez im Exil" – Kunstverein Familie Montez, Frankfurt by Kerstin Krone-Bayer and Hanna Rut Neidhardt (Publishers), ISBN 978-3-00-045918-4

Contributions to Dazed Digital | Dazed & Confused Magazine[edit]

  • Frankfurt Goes To Brazil – The artists of Showroom Eulengasse collaborate in Olinda (2008-01-07)
  • Female Impressionists in Frankfurt – From Berthe Morisot to Mary Cassatt (2008-03-12)
  • The Archaeological Horror – Jonathan Meese and Daniel Richter collaborate in Hamburg (2008-01-23)
  • Mark Rothko in Hamburg – A landmark retrospective of the "myth-maker" (2008-03-21)
  • Takashi Murakami in Frankfurt – A major retrospective from the Tokyo pop artist and Louis Vuitton collaborator (2008-09-17)
  • Martin Kippenberger in New York – German artist Martin Kippenberger has a retrospective at MoMa in New York called "The Problem Perspective" until May 11th (2009-04-27)

Exhibitions and festivals (selection)[edit]

  • 1986 Zeichnungen, Galerie Das Bilderhaus, Frankfurt
  • 1989 Christiaan Tonnis, Galerie Einbaum, Frankfurt
  • 1990 Christiaan Tonnis, Galerie Limberg, Frankfurt
  • 2007 CATWALK!, Eulengasse, Frankfurt
  • 2007 Sem Palavras / Ohne Worte, Instituto Histórico de Olinda, Olinda
  • 2008 Antarctic Meltdown, Melbourne International Arts Festival, Melbourne
  • 2008 Sanlu Yishu, Black Rock Arts Foundation, San Francisco Bay Area
  • 2008 Digital Fringe 08, Melbourne Fringe Festival, Melbourne
  • 2008 Road Movie, Frieze Film at 6. Frieze Art Fair and Channel 4, London
  • 2008 Electrofringe, This Is Not Art, Newcastle
  • 2009 Gut ist was gefällt, Kunstverein Familie Montez, Frankfurt
  • 2010 Hinter dem Spiegel, Klosterpresse, Frankfurt
  • 2011 Christiaan Tonnis: Thomas Bernhards "Frost", Eulengasse, Frankfurt
  • 2011 Fragile Helden, Kunstverein Familie Montez, Frankfurt
  • 2012 Terremoto – Beben, by Nikolaus A. Nessler, in collaboration with Christiaan Tonnis (Film), Nico Rocznik (Light) and Manuel Stein (Sound), Kunsthaus Wiesbaden[14][15]
  • 2013 Wurzeln weit mehr Aufmerksamkeit widmen, Kunstverein Familie Montez and Der Laden/Bauhaus University, Weimar
  • 2014 Les Fleurs du Mal – Dithering Cities, with Elizabeth Dorazio, Mirek Macke, Nikolaus A. Nessler, Christiaan Tonnis and Alexander M. Winn, Luminale[16]
  • 2015 Kunst Messe Frankfurt 15, Kunstverein Familie Montez, Hall 1.2 / G13 + G14, Messe GmbH, Frankfurt

Curated exhibitions[edit]

  • 2011 Schamanismus aus dem Großen Altai, Kunstverein Eulengasse, Frankfurt[17]
  • 2011 Meg Cebula. Geheimnis und Schönheit, Kunstverein Eulengasse, Frankfurt[18][19]


  1. ^ Hoffmann, Kai, "Hübsches Frauengesicht als Flickwerk", Frankfurter Rundschau, 1986-02-20
  2. ^ "The Face behind the Countenance", Gießener Allgemeine Zeitung, 1986-10-20
  3. ^ Hoffmann, Kai, "Face-Fragment as a Mask", Frankfurter Rundschau, 1990-08-30
  4. ^ "First Vernissage at 'Höpershof'", Wedemark Echo, 2006-11-11
  5. ^ Frick, Solveig, "Don´t be afraid of Virginia Woolf", Frankfurter Rundschau, No. 86, Page 31, 2007-04-13
  6. ^ "Contributors", Dazed Digital, Dazed & Confused Magazine
  7. ^ Schütte, Christoph, "Kunst mit Familienanschluss", Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, R4 Kultur, 2009-06-21
  8. ^ "Gut ist was gefällt im Kunstverein Familie Montez e.V.". Archived from the original on August 18, 2011. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  9. ^ Troschke, Antonia, "Menü mit Allem", Frankfurter Rundschau, No. 20, RS/B7, 2013-01-24
  10. ^ Persson, Amelie, "Pixelkitchen",, 2013-01-25
  11. ^ Warburton, Nigel, "Ludwig Wittgenstein – Language Games", Yale University Press London, 2013-04-26
  12. ^ APA, "Innsbrucker Mediziner wollen Schizophrenie auf den Grund gehen", WirtschaftsBlatt, 2014-12-04
  13. ^ Flores, Fabián Ramírez, "En los límites de la personalidad", magis – ITESO Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara, 2010-01-18
  14. ^ "Kurze Nacht der Galerien und Museen im Kunsthaus Wiesbaden". Archived from the original on June 2, 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  15. ^ "Terremoto – Beben", 2012-03-24
  16. ^ Luminale - Biennale der Lichtkultur, light–, Page 21
  17. ^ "Алтайские художники шаманят в Германии", Контрабанда, 2011-09-12
  18. ^ "Meg Cebula", Journal Frankfurt, No. 13, Page 76, 2011-05
  19. ^ "Meg Cebula. Geheimnis und Schönheit", 2011-05-27

External links[edit]