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 62)
Saarbrücken, West Germany
Nationality German
Education Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach am Main
Known for Painting, Video Art
Notable work Ludwig Wittgenstein (1985),Virginia Woolf, William S. Burroughs (1998)
Movement Contemporary art
Female Warrior #6 "Behind the Line", Pencil on board, 1982
Ludwig Wittgenstein, Pencil on board, 1985
The Bible - Solomon - Song of Songs 8, 6-7, Acrylic, rich pale gold and cloth on linen, 1997
God gave us another Gift # 9 - Blue Flower - Novalis", Photography, 2013
Kunstverein Familie Montez in June 2016, Video Still Image, 2016

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]

... in his portraits the artist Christiaan Tonnis shows us the tears in the psyche that are written into faces. In these paintings these faces are, as it were, stage areas of a forgotten Drama, only readable as old and rigid courses of action but with traces of the internal (hidden) foreigner ...

— Kai Hoffmann, Frankfurter Rundschau, 1986-02-20

In 1986, he started to paint landscapes from literature like the "Magic Mountain (after Thomas Mann)" and portraits of writers and philosophers as William S. Burroughs, Virginia Woolf, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and more. His large scale triptych "Frost" is "a material image in harsh black and white which depicts a literary landscape of snow and ice in different viewpoints [...] a picturesque transformation of Thomas Bernhards 1963 novel".[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]


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.

Since 2009 Tonnis produced 101 short documentaries about exhibition preparations, openings and artist interviews for the Kunstverein Familie Montez.[14] They go together with a "Family Album", created out of video stills.[15]


  • Christiaan Tonnis: "Krankheit als Symbol", Berlin Pro Business, 1. Edition 2006-11-03, 2006, ISBN 978-3-939533-34-4
  • Christiaan Tonnis, Oswald-von-Nell-Breuning-Schule and the town of Rödermark: "5+5=1!", DVD-Video (25 min.), 2011, archived at the town of Rödermark
  • "ROT" – Das Magazin des Kunstvereins Eulengasse, Axel Dielmann-Verlag, Frankfurt, 2013, p. 15-16, 145, 148-149, 15, ISBN 978-3-86638-180-3
  • Kerstin Krone-Bayer and Hanna Rut Neidhardt (Publishers): "Montez im Exil" – Kunstverein Familie Montez, Frankfurt, 2014, ISBN 978-3-00-045918-4
  • "Familie Hecht — Eine Erinnerung", 2017, DVD-Video, in collaboration with the Oswald-von-Nell-Breuning-School, Rödermark, archived at the Jewish Museum Frankfurt
  • Christiaan Tonnis – Die Leipziger Baumwollspinnerei, epubli Verlag Berlin, 2017, ISBN 978-3-7450-7655-4
  • Christiaan Tonnis – Das grafische Werk, epubli Verlag Berlin, 2017, ISBN 978-3-7450-6724-8

Exhibitions and festivals (selection)[edit]

  • 1986 Zeichnungen, Galerie Das Bilderhaus, Frankfurt (Solo)
  • 1986 Zeichnungen, Galerie 42, Gießen (Solo)
  • 1989 Christiaan Tonnis, Galerie Einbaum, Frankfurt (Solo)
  • 1990 Christiaan Tonnis, Galerie Limberg, Frankfurt (Solo)
  • 2006 Dialog, Kunstverein Eulengasse, Frankfurt (Solo)
  • 2006 Zeichnung und Malerei, Höpershof, Hannover-Wedemark (Solo)
  • 2007 CATWALK!, Kunstverein Eulengasse, Frankfurt (Solo)
  • 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 2009 Was A Rough Year – Lilly McElroy, Thomas Robertello Gallery, Chicago
  • 2010 Hinter dem Spiegel (with a performance by Eva Moll), Klosterpresse, Frankfurt (Solo)
  • 2011 Christiaan Tonnis: Thomas Bernhards "Frost", Kunstverein Eulengasse, Frankfurt (Solo)
  • 2012 Terremoto – Beben, by Nikolaus A. Nessler, in collaboration with Christiaan Tonnis (Film), Nico Rocznik (Light) and Manuel Stein (Sound), Kunsthaus Wiesbaden[16][17]
  • 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[18]
  • 2015 Kunst Messe Frankfurt 15, Kunstverein Familie Montez, Hall 1.2 / G13 + G14, Messe GmbH, Frankfurt
  • 2017: Supermarket 2017 – Stockholm Independent Art Fair, Stockholm[19]

Curated exhibitions[edit]

  • 2011 Schamanismus aus dem Großen Altai, Kunstverein Eulengasse, Frankfurt[20]
  • 2011 Meg Cebula. Geheimnis und Schönheit, Kunstverein Eulengasse, Frankfurt[21][22]


  1. ^ Hoffmann, Kai, "Hübsches Frauengesicht als Flickwerk", Frankfurter Rundschau, 1986-02-20
  2. ^ "Das Gesicht hinter dem Antlitz", Gießener Allgemeine Zeitung, 1986-10-20
  3. ^ "Christiaan Tonnis: Thomas Bernhards Frost",, 2011-08-12
  4. ^ "Erste Vernissage im 'Höpershof'", Wedemark Echo, 2006-11-11
  5. ^ Frick, Solveig, "Keine Angst vor 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". schirn– Archived from the original on 2014-12-10. Retrieved 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. ^ Tonnis, Christiaan, "Kunstverein Familie Montez – Werkverzeichnis 2009–2016", YouTube Playlist
  15. ^ Tonnis, Christiaan, "Kunstverein Familie Montez – Familienalbum"
  16. ^ "Kurze Nacht der Galerien und Museen im Kunsthaus Wiesbaden". Archived from the original on June 2, 2012. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  17. ^ "Terremoto – Beben", 2012-03-24
  18. ^ "Luminale – Biennale der Lichtkultur", Messe Frankfurt, light–, Page 21
  19. ^ Supermarket 2017 – Stockholm Independent Art Fair Retrieved 2017-03-24
  20. ^ "Алтайские художники шаманят в Германии", Контрабанда, 2011-09-12
  21. ^ "Meg Cebula", Journal Frankfurt, No. 13, Page 76, 2011-05
  22. ^ "Meg Cebula. Geheimnis und Schönheit", 2011-05-27

External links[edit]