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The Traveler. Stages in the life of the artist Michael Touma

Topic: Art Academies and Academic Exchange
  • 1974
In 1974 Michael Touma moved from Haifa to the GDR for the first time. There he studied over the time at the art academies in Dresden, East Berlin and Leipzig.

"Painting is his way of existing. That's not just a figure of speech. I am sure that this forming and making by means of color is his most important, if not only, way of coping with a difficult life. It is useless to try to classify him stylistically and to sniff for artistic models. He does not deny suggestions at all and, like every painter by the way, has his models. But I think that for about half a year now, after many years, he is on the way to himself. The latest works turn again to the image of the human being and this, like everything he paints, has again moral reasons. He works constantly, and probably this is his way of relaxing. He is friendly, and sometimes his paintings are cheerful. But it may be that he doesn't even realize it." (Translated by Art in Networks)

Prof. Bernhard Heisig, in the leaflet for Michael Touma's personal exhibition at the Leipzig Opera in 1991, quoted from the catalogue Spuren, 2014, p. 34

Michael Touma (born 1956) and his artistic work are influenced by different places and people. The artist heard about Dresden in his youth through his teacher Gershon Knispel, who taught him painting in Haifa. He was also already familiar with the city through stories told by the dancer Jardena Cohen, who studied dance at the Palucca School in Dresden in the 1920s. Other influences on him were his mother Chaya Touma, an important ceramic artist, and his father Emile Touma, a political historian, theorist and journalist. The latter was also co-founder and, in the 1970s, editor-in-chief of the communist newspaper Al-Ittihad. It was through him that the young Michael Touma met the artist Abed Abdi, then artistic director of the cultural department, who had just returned from his studies in Dresden.

In the video interview, the artist talks about his stations in the GDR and in particular about learning at the Dresden Art Academy. The collapse of the socialist structure was an upheaval in Touma's life and work. The artistic confrontation with it helped him to deal with these transformations. There was a change in style to Expressionist. In the 1990s, his focus finally shifted to media art. As a staff member at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, he edited the magazine Prozess with Tjark Ihmels during this time.

Michael Touma lives and works in Leipzig and Haifa.

Interview with the artist Michael Touma in his studio in Leipzig, 16.08.2022
Insight into the catalogue Spuren by artist Michael Touma, Leipzig 2018/2019, p. 15. The artist writes: "In the series "Worlds" I used the technique of collage to connect the different worlds in which I lived, such as Jewish-Israeli, Arabic, Russian and English" (quot. from the catalogue Spuren, 2014, p. 14, translated by Art in Networks)

In the interview, Michael Touma talks about his connections to Dresden, already before and also after his stay in the GDR - through the dancer Jardena Cohen, the artist Lea Grundig and the artist Abed Abdi.

Interview with the artist Michael Touma in his studio in Leipzig, 16.08.2022. Part II

His studies in Dresden, but above all his encounters with artists in Leipzig and his visits to exhibitions have always occupied and inspired Michael Touma. In the video, he assesses his perception of artistic creation in the GDR, and pleads for new perspectives in today's approach to works that have often been insufficiently examined.

Interview with the artist Michael Touma in his studio in Leipzig, 16.08.2022. Part III

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