Thilo Heinzmann Biography

German contemporary artist Thilo Henizmann's pared-down paintings use unconventional materials to highlight texture and colour, cementing him as an important figure in the discipline of abstract painting.

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Early Years

Thilo Heinzmann was born in Berlin in 1969. He studied at the Städelschule in Frankfurt in the early 1990s under noted Pop-inspired artist Thomas Bayrle. He also worked under influential German artist Martin Kippenberger during this time. Upon his return to Berlin, he became involved in the independent art scene opening a number of exhibition spaces. He continues to live and work in the German capital.

In addition to his practice, he teaches the next generation of German artists, first as a guest painting professor at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg and, since 2018, as Professor of Painting at Universität der Künste in Berlin.

Thilo Heinzmann Artworks

For the past 25 years, Thilo Heinzmann has looked to go beyond the conventions of painting, integrating alternative techniques and media into his canvases, such as chipboard, Styrofoam, porcelain, hessian, aluminium, cotton wool, pigment, fur, resin, mosaic, and even nail polish.

In his oil and pigment works, featuring bursts of saturated colour on white canvas, he brings colour and texture into conversation with one another with the use of a plexiglass cover. Others with three dimensional elements are also protected behind glass, such as those with sculptural Styrofoam or hessian forms dotted with colour which emerge from the white mass. It is as if they are specimens to be preserved.

The tactile quality of his artwork is therefore essential to his practice; these canvases truly must be seen to fully appreciate his artistry.

German and Italian Influence

Thilo Heinzmann comes from a tradition of German innovation in modern painting, bearing similarities to other influential painters who experimented with neo-formalism and post-minimalism such as Günther Förg and Imi Knoebel.

Although he has strong roots in German art history, one may also find a connection to Italian modern art, specifically the Arte Povera movement—Alberto Burri's use of hessian, for example—as well as earlier artists such as Lucio Fontana. Heinzmann's streaks of dark pigment cut across the white canvas like Fontana's slashes, and his aluminium series, entitled Aicmo, feature actual perforations in each work. The focus on materiality in his chipboard works, asymmetrically hewn together and with a rawness that borders on violence, is also reminiscent of Italian artwork made in the wake of World War II.

Musical Collaborations

He collaborated with the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson on 12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann, 12 pieces for string quartet based on Heinzmann's paintings and conversations between the composer and the artist. The works premiered in 2016 at the Conway Hall in London, and later with a limited-edition LP designed by Heinzmann.


Thilo Heinzmann's work is included in international collections, including M+ Museum in Hong Kong, Tate Modern in London, and the Bundeskunstsammlung, the German government's contemporary art collection.


Thilo Heinzmann has been the subject of both solo exhibitions and group exhibitions.

Solo exhibitions include: Thilo Heinzmann: Pantaloni, Neugerriemschneider, Berlin (2019); We, Rivers & Mountains, Galerie Perrotin, Seoul (2017); Cloud Clear Horizon, Galerie Perrotin, Hong Kong (2014); Touching Hands with Body, Galerìa Heinrich Ehrhardt, Madrid (2013); Thilo Heinzmann, Carl Freedman Gallery, London (2009); and Thilo Heinzmann, Galerie Guido W. Baudach, Berlin (2006).

Group exhibitions include: In abeyance, Project Space of Art Cologne (2021); Wherehouse, Shanghai FTZ art season (2021); Painting Forever! Keilrahmen, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2013); Post-War and Contemporary Art Collection, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma (2012); and Masterpieces of Painting in the Collection of the IVAM: Past, Present and Future, IVAM - Institut Valencià d'Art Modern, Valencia (2011)

Website and Instagram

Thilo Heinzmann's website can be found here.


Articles on Thilo Heinzmann have been published in various publications, including Burlington Contemporary, Harper's Bazaar (Korea), Frieze Magazine, and Texte zur Kunst.

Rachel Kubrick | Ocula | 2022

Thilo Heinzmann
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O.T. by Thilo Heinzmann contemporary artwork painting
Thilo Heinzmann O.T., 2020 Oil, pigment and glass on canvas, plexiglass cover
154 x 164 x 9 cm
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