A quick glance at multimedia artist Thomas Broomé’s Modern Mantra series and it’s hard to ascertain what makes these illustrations of lavish interiors so unusual. But a closer look reveals that each piece of furniture, every architectural detail, object or trinket, however big or small, is constructed from the noun that identifies it – to brilliant effect.
Born in southern Sweden and now based in Stockholm, Broomé developed this technique while at art school, going against the express wishes of his “horrible model drawing teacher”. He explains, “I tried to be creative and solve the task of the naked body with different and what I though were fun variations, using symbols and words and so forth. I remember I always got a good scolding for doing this, to the point that the teacher’s face would turn all red. After one such session, I stayed up all night drawing the living room in our collective house using only the words that described each primitive object." And so the concept was born. But it was not until 12 years later, after quitting his job as a computer researcher to focus on his art, that Broome finally "picked up the thread from that night" and embarked upon his first drawings for the Modern Mantra series.
"There is a striking emptiness in all the Modern Mantras as they are longing to be populated but can't be because they're only an idea"
Initially, Broomé drew the rooms from carefully selected estate agent adverts. "I wanted a certain type of apartment, what I call a 'lifestyle' apartment," he expands. "Something constructed to make you covet it and everything it represents." This is certainly the case, the opulent staircases, luxurious libraries, home cinemas and tapestried dining rooms proving distinctly enviable in spite of their verbose format. But aside from the drawings' indisputable aesthetic appeal and sense of fun, Broomé's chief aim is to provide a commentary on our increasingly materialistic society: "For me they are talking about this constructed epidemic whereby, by being fed repetitive messages, we've become convinced that others have what we want and that as soon as we get it, we will be happy." But for Broomé happiness is not about "getting something," it is about being content with what you have. He concludes, "There is a striking emptiness in all the Modern Mantras as they are longing to be populated but can't be because they're only an idea, a mind-ghost."
Text by Daisy Woodward