Tomma Abts makes complex paintings and works on paper whose subject is ultimately the process of their creation. She begins each work with no preconceived composition and idea, and without preliminary sketches. Guided largely by intuition, she nevertheless works within precise parameters. The paintings' evolution is evidenced by ridges and uneven texture—the result of methodical overpainting and reworking of the image. While abstract, the works are still illusionistic, rendered with sharp attention to shadows, three-dimensional effects, and highlights that defy any single, realistic light source. The resulting canvases convey balance and movement, while maintaining a sense of uncertainty, which seems akin to memory.
Born in 1967 in Kiel, Germany, Abts studied at Hochschule der Künste in Berlin from 1988 to 1995. The artist joined David Zwirner in 2005, and had her debut exhibition at the gallery in New York in 2008.
In 2014, Abts presented a new body of work at David Zwirner in New York. It coincided with Tomma Abts: Mainly Drawings, the inaugural exhibition at the new Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, which surveyed the artist's extensive drawing practice, showcasing over forty works from 1996 to the present.
Prominent institutions which have hosted solo shows of the artist's work include the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2011); New Museum, New York; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (both 2008); Kunsthalle Basel; and the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (both 2005).
Abts was the 2006 recipient of the prestigious Turner Prize, organized by Tate Gallery, London. Her work has been included in major international exhibitions such as the Berlin Biennial (2006); Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (2004); Istanbul Biennial (2001); amongst others.
Her work is represented in public collections internationally, including The Art Institute of Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Staatsgalerie Stuttgart; Tate Gallery, London; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. She lives and works in London.