Known for his offbeat experiments with printing processes, Thomas Mailaender is an artist constantly pushing the limits of the medium. He’s worked with found images for 10 years and, as a consequence, tells me that: “I don’t think of myself as a photographer.”
Often sourcing images from the internet, but equally happy to raid car boot fairs, flea markets, and charity shops, Mailaender says he is interested in “reproducing images rather than making them myself”. He is, he says, “a compulsive collector of photographs”.
A selection of his work is currently on show at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in Chelsea, London; a combination of previously seen and unseen work, it includes a selection of ‘objets trouvés’ from his personal collection, the so-called Fun Archive – a collection of absurd, amateur photographs Mailaender started gathering from the internet in 2000. Once Mailaender selects images from the archive he decontextualises them, and prints them onto new surfaces and materials, creating mordant tributes to, and comments on, contemporary culture.
Mailaender is unsure of how his ideas come about, saying that they seem to be continuous, in the sense that one project leads to another. And while each work is different there’s a strong thread running through them – Mainlander’s interest in process, in pairing traditional techniques with today’s prolific digital visual culture. “I’m passionate with process,” he says. “It’s nice to return to the process, rather than spend time on the computer.”
“Right now, I’m feeling upset with the internet,” he continues. “I have the feeling that we are overloaded with images and information, and I am kind of nostalgic about the pre-internet era.” Paradoxically, he says this sense only feeds his obsession with building his fun Archive, in a bid to create a more material, more permanent archive of imagery.
Recently, Mailaender collaborated with a funeral craftsman to print images onto ceramic and lava stones, a durable technique mainly used for printing photos onto tombstones. It’s a permanent process, he notes, which manifests the image in such a way that it will never fade away. By contrast, he says, “in our age, images are mostly stored on hard drives and at some point they will disappear”.
The Fun Archeology by Thomas Mailaender is on show at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London until 26 May www.michaelhoppengallery.com Thomas Mailaender has also published a book titled The Fun Archeology with RVB Books, and will be signing copies of it at Michael Hoppen’s stand at Photo London – 2pm-3pm, 19 May, Stand C1, Photo London https://photolondon.org/event/thomas-mailaender/