A Peek Inside Tomi’s Studio, by Aria Ungerer

A Peek Inside Tomi Ungerer's Studio, by Aria Ungerer

Tomi has lived in one of the wildest and most remote parts of Ireland since the mid seventies. It’s here that himself and his wife raised their family, and it’s in this home of many decades that Tomi built up his studio, which now contains archaeological layers of materials from every stage of his career. Here Aria Ungerer, Tomi’s daughter and manager, shares a peek inside the artist’s studio. 

Tomi’s Studio
by Aria Ungerer, 2016A Peek Inside Tomi Ungerer's Studio

Tomi’s studio is full of stuff. 

The air is perpetually thick with cigarette smoke.

It contains a smorgasbord of various random objects found on the farm, in a field, skip or on a sidewalk. In a corner at the back is an old dentist chair found on a New York sidewalk in the 1960’s.  Standing to greet you upon entering, an aging, life-sized skeleton.

On the shelves are strange, dead animals – pickled, desiccated, subjected to some version of taxidermy or other. On his desk, jars are stuffed full of pencils. A large painting of a naked lady hangs on the wall to its left. She has been there as long as I can remember, overseeing a changing landscape of paper, paint, pastels and pencils. Witness to lines drawn, erased and discarded. Also there as far back as I can remember, lined up against the back wall over the fireplace, are formations of tiny lead soldiers. Perpetually battle ready.

A Peek inside Tomi Ungerer's Studio, by Aria UngererOn a notice board above the fax machine are photographs of an ever-growing roster of dead friends and relatives. Also pinned there, a small card on which he wrote “WAW”, after I suggested that all he needed to look after himself were water / air / walks. Needless to say, the abbreviation remains but the habits themselves remain as elusive as ever.

Walls of drawers are stuffed with notes, postcards, doilies and who knows what. Ready to be transmogrified. As a child, it was the collection of doilies that gave me the most pleasure, that and the old postcards of pretty airbrushed ladies smiling sweetly in large knickers. Somewhere in the studio is a scrapbook full of wine labels which as I child I would help him to carefully remove and save for reference. 

And of course you will be confronted with books. So many books. Books on fashion and anatomy – shared passions. Books about weaponry and botany, fossils and medical deformities. Wine boxes keep filling with recent editions of his various books as they arrive from the publishers – most recently in Italian, Spanish, Korean, Cantonese and Russian.

A Peek Inside Tomi Ungerer's Studio, by Aria Ungerer 

When Tomi sits down to work at his desk, it is with his back to all of this stuff. Spread out in front of him, a wide view across the headland and out to sea. He works, hunched protectively over whatever he is working on.

This summer for instance; editing a book of aphorisms, cutting out old magazines for new collages, working on drawings for a new children’s book, spraying Ken dolls gold or putting a pliers to a piece of wire. Tomi will subject any small piece of twig or old doll to his own version of reincarnation.  

Some might call this room a hotbed of subversion, perversion or mental disquiet. Possibly it is all of those things. To me however, it is simply Tomi’s studio. There as far back as I can remember. A place where the imagination reigns supreme, where innocence, wonder, curiosity and hard work are the order of the day. Enter at your own risk! 

A Peek Inside Tomi Ungerer's Studio, by Aria Ungerer


All photos © Aria Ungerer. 


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