Mirror Drawing 21.12.98 and Untitled are exquisite examples of the works on paper that feed directly into Thomas Schütte’s celebrated
sculptural practice. Within an oeuvre that has rigorously pulled apart and reconstructed the basic elements of human physiognomy,
Schütte’s watercolours and gouaches represent important sites of formal experimentation, allowing a fluidity of expression that filters into his three-dimensional figurative work. With its almost clown-like demeanour, Untitled demonstrates the artist’s deep affinity with the theatre: a medium rooted in costume, disguise and characterisation. Mirror Drawing 21.12.98, by contrast, is one of an intensive series of introspective self-portraits that the artist produced during the same period, repeatedly assessing the contours and idiosyncrasies of his own visage. Extending the lineage of the German Expressionists, Schütte investigates the ways in which representations of human anatomy can shed light upon deeper existential concerns. ‘I am interested in the grammar of character’, he once asserted (T. Schütte, “Man kann auch Schattenboxen oder Weiterstochern im Nebel. Ein Gespräch von Heinz-Norbert Jocks,” Kunstforum International No. 128, 1994, p. 252). By allowing the grotesque, the monstrous and the humorous to infiltrate their composure, Schütte’s figures stand as ciphers for the breadth and complexity of the human condition.