Manuel Tinnemans (born 1971) is an artist, musician and illustrator from Netherlands with a very distinct drawing style of his own. His pen works ooze a subtle atmosphere that closes in on what one might experience when carefully inspecting the structures of Gothic cathedrals -provided that the architect would have whipped up legions of otherworldly entities to reside permanently in his church. Religious themes or perhaps, atmosphere is a word more accurate, are strongly present in the artworks but not in a negative sense of the word. Tinnemans manages to balance the scales well. He remains secretive where subtle means are called for but suggests enough to clasp the unwitting viewer firmly on his paws.
It is quite difficult to find information of the man behind the artworks and this is exactly the way he prefers it to be. Tinnemans believes that art should speak for itself. “If the personality of the artist becomes too important you get clowns that find themselves to be too interesting” says Tinnemans, adding that he speaks from experience, having exhibited with other artists. Despite his wish to remain low profile, a lot of the his personality is visible in the ink. It is my careful estimation that Tinnemans is perhaps one of the most talented and promising people around wielding a pen and his weapon of choice is by far sharper than any sword, executing any lingering doubts one might hold against the cultural value of ink and paper as a medium.
The finesse of Tinnemans’ work lies in layers, depth and structure.
It takes quite a lot of time to take in the drawings and it is clear that these works of art are extremely thoroughly thought of, the fruits of a perfectionist mind. Manuel Tinnemans’ drawings are carefully polished but never sterile. A sense of infinite space and perspective is ever present, sometimes in bizarre ways that remind me of the famous pencil works of Escher or of impossible structures. Tinnemans is able to introduce an illusion of similar credibility, and does so without copying anyone. Some of the works bring elaborate stained glass art to mind, even to a point where one may begin to experience the sensation of soft rays of light shining through colored glass. The pictures are dancing at the edge of chaos but maintain their rhythm well, never stumbling into the pit of what I like to call “false sweeteners” – pictures that aim to shock or impress with the usual rubber bat and ritual knife-imagery.
There is no uncertainty or immaturity in Tinneman’s artworks.
What there is, there’s hell. There’s hell and all the devils bursting out from the paper. After a while the demons resemble angels -wonderful, seductive lines of angels rise up and with them, the viewer is uplifted too. Several worlds begin to merge –at first glance the images may seem soft with a coal – like quality to them but very soon other, often rough and even violent elements are revealed. The result is a fantastic mix of otherworldly, gritty and solemn atmospheres. A lot of what I love in classic works of art is present here, but brought forth with a fresh and wonderfully intoxicating twist to it. I wrote that technique-wise they remind me of Escher’s pencil works, but there is a darker atmosphere radiating from the ink. This is realism from another dimension, where the laws of physics bend in ecstatic ways.
The drawings are heavy with symbolism. Wildly galloping horses, snakes, high pillars and flesh-rending knives, nails and fire suggest of a battle between stagnant and chaotic phases, objects and feelings. As Tinnemans does not offer much explanation to his visions, we are given a rare and fantastic freedom as viewers – in a world that prefers ready-chewed ideas and explanations to tell us what it is that we are looking at, Tinnemans’ secrecy is a welcome breath of fresh air. It is up to us to rack our grey little brain cells and define where we stand between the worlds the artist creates and thus “complete” the picture through subjective experiences, emotions and the knowledge we possess. One thing is for sure though – these works of art are extremely captivating and each of them does hold a story within. “Symbols have an incredible power to them and stand for something that is sometimes impossible to translate into something physical” says Tinnemans. Art opens up a possibility to explain or illuminate things that go beyond words, or worlds.
When it comes to inspiration, Tinnemans is not picky. He says that everything and anything can inspire him. Perhaps this open-minded view is one of the reasons why the works seem to hold so much information, stir so many feelings and impressions. Usually an image is either “moving” or “stagnant” but Tinnemans seems often to be able to incorporate both elements in his works. At times the eye seems to be able to trace new lines endlessly, and with this observation a radical sense of movement is introduced. There is something massive about the drawings. They appear to be ominous and inviting, peaceful and threatening at the same time. This is a classic contrast found in many myths, stories and even horror flicks- in order to be able to “win”, obtain knowledge, grow or just survive, the hero of the story needs to walk some pretty steep paths. To me, the drawings seem to suggest of a possibility of experiencing something else, such as unearthing a powerful secret but as always, the offered fruit comes with a price. These works of art exalt the imagination. As the artist puts it “I regard myself as a portal – I convey images that are conveyed through my eyes and thoughts into a new form. The influence works both sides in my opinion.” Tinnemans’ works are almost addictive by nature, making me into a budding psychonaut who wants to explore every depth and height of this magick and the mysterious universe it seems to hint of.
Tinnemans has been drawing his whole life, and it shows. What further adds value to his work is that he is self-taught and therefore has no formal education in arts. This may just well be the key as to why his art appears to me to be so fantastic – when no one teaches you how things “should” be done, you are forced to discover your own aesthetics and symbols of power.
Planning and executing the works is a slow process.The range of time used on a single piece varies from 25 to as high as 250 hours. And mind you, these are not particularly large drawings either. The usual size is somewhere between 20 x 20 to 30 x 30 cm. In the past five years or so, the artist’s career has taken a more serious turn and he has been able to start working as a full-time artist. Personally I am waiting anxiously to see more of his personal work, even if I’ve enjoyed the album cover art immensely too. The album art for Deathspell Omega’s Drought is particularly impressive. “Working with Deathspell Omega is pure magick. They make me reach for the impossible so I stretch myself to the limit in order to come up with artwork that somehow equals the level of their musical output. It should always be like that but they have a special place in that perspective.”
Besides Deathspell Omega, Tinnemans has been working for several other bands too. Ares Kingdom, Wrathprayer, Essenz and Pentacle root him very strongly in metal music scene but the subtle lines and atmospheric feeling of the works suggest that this is not all we will see from him and for sure, Manuel Tinnemans is not “just another album cover illustrator”. To me he is a truly unique, extremely talented (and hard-working) soul and I can only guess just how far his skill will carry him.
Even though most of the works are done with ink on paper, Tinnemans is no stranger to experimenting with other techniques. Recently he has been trying out zinc-plate etchings and painting. One of the strengths that any good, diverse artist should have is the ability to experiment with new materials, techniques and ways of expression. One can spend their entire life studying a tree but if the bark and leaves is all they will ever see the art soon will lose its most holy possibility – that wonderful, intoxicating journey of digging ever deeper into the layers of the universe.
Manuel Tinnemans does to me what very few today’s artists are able to do. To put it simply, his art touches me. His skill, knowledge of the materials used and vision comes screaming through the ink and paper and I’d have to be completely blind and deaf to the world to shrug it off. Tinnemans is able to challenge the viewer with his amazing skill and the deeply complex symbolism buried in his artworks. The result is a bit like looking through a kaleidoscope. The structure is there but as soon as I move a bit, as soon as the world turns ever so slightly, the drawings change too, finding new ways to present themselves. Good art strikes a chord somewhere very deep in our psyche. It is a intensive dialogue between the artist and his work as well as between the viewer and the art, building bridges to places one could barely have guess to even exist. It is a universal language that needs no words to be understood. Good art roots us on the spot like a snake charming its prey. And with Tinnemans’ works, something like this does happen to me – minutes tick past like seconds as I watch this modern iconography in awe. Strange entities seem to speak through the drawings, whispering words in inhuman and fantastic tongues. Paradise and the rat-infested, muddy gutter become one as worlds embrace. Tinneman’s works are poetry. They are music. They are like the faces of ancient sculptures shaped by unknown masters -secretive, beautiful and a little eerie, with a knowing hint of a smile playing on their lips.
It is impossible for me to translate into writing exactly how these drawings appear to me because some things go beyond my capacity for words. I can only conclude in saying that sometimes things are best viewed through ink on paper and Tinnemans proves a point I’ve been preaching for a while – Art is magick.
Manuel Tinneman’s art:
manuel (at) comaworx.com
If you are interested of purchasing the artist’s prints, etchings or wish him to draw album cover art for you, please contact him via Facebook or email.
Observe that the art book titled “Tabula Obscura”, where Tinnemans collaborates with Timo Ketola and Sami Hynninen is on the way. People visiting Roadburn 2013 may cross their fingers and hope for the best – plans are that the book will be presented there. With the release of the book, Tinnemans also aims to exhibit his original works around Europe. So far, the artist has chosen not to sell his original drawings but a selection of etchings and silk-screen prints should become available through the artist’s website in near future.