The fire as a creative medium in Thomas Girbl's pictures

“Baptisme of fire - Traces of the memory”


Concentrated light as a corpuscle, a source of light – or wave in space – a column of fire, a horizon of light – and also as fields of interferences are arranged in such a way in Thomas Girbl’s pictures that the single depicted elements refer to each others and are made visible as shapes and colours. White ball-shaped areas, areas arranged as vertical or horizontal stripes or hatched areas symbolize the presence of highly concentrated light that stands for the power of fire. The light, broken by gentle matter as it meets material substances, is visualised by the beauty and brightness of the entire chromatic circle. The traces of fire stand for the traces of changes that are burnt into our memory and thus symbolize continuous change, the process of ongoing changes to which earth is permanently subject.

In the artistic work of Thomas Girbl fire becomes a separating agent:

It attacks the substance of the pictorial background, it separates an distinguishes the untouched (=the eternal) and the elements to be purified (materials, matter). It acts like a catalyst and thus enables new life: In the pictures this new life is slightly alluded to by means of colours that express new aspects and dimensions of the eternal. Fire as a symbol of spirit, light, power – and thus life – transforms the visible and the invisibly present matter, an in a purifying process it creates the chance for rebirth, which is symbolized by beauty and colourful harmony.

The traces left by the baptism of fire are considered as the underlying principle of “To die an to be” an have thus become the central element of remembering and the return of the very essentials of life.

The sources of light or columns of light that are depicted at the very centre of the picture, as well as the areas surrounding them which are captured in hues of blue (=water), red and brown (=earth) and which too reflect the power of light once – again broken into different shades of colours – can be interpreted as the stories told about the stream of life itself.

During his extensive travels Thomas Girbl was particularly impressed by the bush fires in Australia as well as the symbolic colours used in ritual arts in India. Both impressions have considerably influenced his work. And all his works are deeply influenced by the powerful traces of fire that symbolise the female aspect. The pictures leave much room to the beholders to sense their innermost feelings and to discover various figurations that reveal themselves in a different way again and again.

Serious incidents in a person’s life always leave traces that are incised into one’s personality as stages in the way through life and that stand testimony – as signs of significant character – at the transition to something new. The works by Thomas Girbl in their reduction to the essential mediate profound sensations of the secret surrounding the myth of our World’s creation, which is continuously taking place both visibly and invisibly in each and every moment as the principle underlying life in nature and in Man.


“Tell it to no one but the wise,

For most will mock it right away:

The truly living do I prize,

Those who long in flame to die…”


J.W. Goethe “Holy Longing”


Renate Obud PhD. in Art History – Head of the City-Gallery Villach