Thomas Ott

Video: Gina Folly
Schnitt: Miriam Leonardi
Musik: Daniel Hobi aus dem Kurzfilm «Haru Ichiban» von Aya Domenig CH/JAP 2005

Thomas Ott, 1966

Comics artist and illustrator, Zurich

Thomas Ott (born 1966) is a Zurich-based comics artist and il­lus­tra­tor who cre­ates im­mer­sive and unique dark worlds. Fol­low­ing his stud­ies at the Kun­st­gewerbeschule in Zurich, Ott's work has ap­peared in nu­mer­ous news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines through­out Eu­rope. From his first book Tales of Error to his lat­est tome, A Hell of a Woman, he has re­fined his use of the scratch­board as a medium, cre­at­ing strik­ing char­ac­ters and scenes with painstak­ing de­tail and clar­ity. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously, Ott's word­less sto­ries have be­come more lay­ered and com­plex, giv­ing rise to kalei­do­scopic nar­ra­tives that are both vi­o­lent and mes­mer­iz­ing.
The Con­fed­er­a­tion grants Ott a Swiss Grand Award for De­sign in recog­ni­tion of his unique place in the Swiss comics and il­lus­tra­tion scene, as well as his un­mis­tak­able in­ter­na­tional ap­peal. The dis­tinc­tion of his work marks the first time the Award is be­stowed upon a comics artist.


Gruesomely Glorious

As far as we know, no re­search has been con­ducted into whether or not every human being after 1945, be­tween Moscow and New York, has drawn a death's head at least once in their lives.
But even with­out suit­able proof, we are ab­solutely sure that the death‘s head is an ir­refutable part of said col­lec­tive mem­ory - and prob­a­bly far be­yond.
Fear mon­ger­ing and hys­ter­i­cal threat-op­por­tunism by way of the death's head are more fa­mil­iar to us than ever be­fore. As anx­i­ety for the small-minded, they are stoked, bun­dled and cooked with com­mer­cial rigor, land­ing ready for con­sump­tion on liv­ing room ta­bles the world over. The death's head has a whale of a time in si­lence. Ott comes later.
Ty­coon and TV re­al­ity star Robert Geiss aka Roberto Geissini along with other main­stream gurus of Thomas Sabo or Ed Hardy ilk sell their slick eggheads ready-made, thereby un­der­min­ing all the fun that fear pro­vides and all re­spect for cults, too. That's not good.
Their shirts sport a melt­down of skull, cross and Stars & Stripes, a trip­tych of mean­ing­less­ness that's an ex­quis­ite match for their high-gloss, rhine­stone-stud­ded death's head bling. Should you hap­pen to end up in a bar­rage of flash­ing cam­eras on the way to the next tat­too stu­dio, your hand might well shoot up un­bid­den in Sa­tanic greet­ing. Al­most like back in the days when Guns N' Roses took root in the brainy out­back of every teenager in the pop uni­verse.
And those who have since had their tramp stamps lasered away are now deck­ing them­selves out like so­ci­ety-jostler Cora Schu­macher with her death's head dirndl to wear and not to wear. And nowhere near as risky. No mat­ter what car­ni­val it's for. Ques­tion is who is more star­tled : the wearer or the worn.
They cel­e­brate in José Guadalupe Posada's car­ni­val, too. But dif­fer­ently. His skele­tons dance fre­net­i­cally as a sym­bol of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween life and death, mak­ing fun of an up­per-class that was dead long be­fore it even took its first breath. Their skulls grin in di­a­bol­i­cal si­lence. Here comes Ott.
Any­body who has been alone for too long and starts be­liev­ing that death is a dan­ger­ous, dark pain in the ass with tons of bes­tial ten­ta­cles is clearly more at­tuned to the fact that per­cep­tion in­ter­weaves re­al­ity and fic­tion more than meets the eye. We can only spec­u­late how long Ott sits in soli­tude gaz­ing into the dark glass and phi­lan­der­ing with grue­somely glo­ri­ous death.
He's hard as nails when he picks apart the quest for hap­pi­ness in bloody pyres, along with peo­ple look­ing for a well-or­dered life among piles of head­less hys­ter­ics.
He lib­er­ates hu­mans from hu­man­ity. Grotesque and play­ful, he flaunts what hap­pens when things turn out for the worst after all. Not un­con­cerned, he liq­ui­dates an­tic­i­pa­tion of bet­ter things to come in un­in­hib­ited cel­e­bra­tion of the bad. There is no room for cap­tives on the down­ward spi­ral of this hell ride. That's the only way it's re­ally fun to be dead.
Clar­ity at long last. After a life of het­eron­omy, peo­ple de­voured by rou­tine look straight at the cer­tainty of death with eyes wide open - staged by them­selves. Or was it only a beau­ti­ful dream? Dead or not dead - that is not the ques­tion any­more.
The bound­aries have all dis­solved in his sweaty black-and­white slaugh­ter, and the edge of the world has begun.
Ott zeal­ously cham­pi­ons the lonely left­over souls of so­ci­ety. Mur­der­ers, drinkers, pros­ti­tutes, bad moth­ers, de­crepit dream­ers - he man­ages to pull them all through some­how - or kill them.
All the rest, the in­firm, the losers and the eter­nally damned, are cor­dially wel­come to join him on his last jour­ney to the ceme­tery of in­no­cent souls.
You won't hear Jim Mor­ri­son singing " The End ". He's in res­i­dence at a dif­fer­ent ceme­tery.
A.C. Kup­per and Suzana Rozkosny
Trans­la­tion: Cather­ine Schel­bert