The Ceylonese jungle, which inspired him during his ten-year stay in the tropical island state, is the main source of the mystery villas, human entanglements and wrong turns in many of his pictorial creations, all of which tend towards fantastic realism. It is ‘the look behind the mask’ with which the Düsseldorf journalist Alfred Müller-Gast characterised the artistic work of Thomas Häfner in the 1960s.

Phantastische Waldszene (detail), 1965

In his complex, detailed paintings Häfner reveals people’s masquerades, makes the unconscious visible, draws back the curtain on love and hate, beauty and ugliness, longing and fear, nakedness and sexuality, life and transience.

In his work sexuality is portrayed as an important driving and sustaining force of life, including eroticism, auto-eroticism – and the inevitability of death.