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artists.

Wolfgang Tillmans
  • WOLFGANG TILLMANS.

    Wolfgang Tillmans has always engaged with portraiture, landscape and still life, but more recently he has turned to a deeper exploration of abstraction, and has pushed the boundaries and definitions of the photographic form. His images capture the essence of a moment, and the pictures and installations that the artist has created over the last two decades are an alchemical blend of detachment and engagement.

     

    By turning every day situations into almost monumental images, Tillmans very strikingly captured the spirit of the times. Tillmans poses the question: how did we get to where we are now – a period in which the fragility of truth is continually tested. Recognisable Tillmans-style photographs, reproduced screenshots and news headlines to create a startling record of our times.

     

    A photograph depicts a man whose slogan tee reads, “Don’t look down on anybody… unless you are helping them up”. Wolfgang Tillmans has evolved to appreciate the power and potential of photographic abstraction. Over the past decade, he has been intermixing in his exhibitions his compelling photographs of people and things with purely abstract prints made using only chemicals and light.

     

    He demonstrated an intuitive gift for capturing the underlying realities of his subjects and their surroundings, such that even his fictional images seem true. It is a vision of both what is authentic and what is imagined, and suggests that both are fundamentally part of the same experience of life.

     

    One of the abstract techniques with which Tillmans has experimented has manifested in a series of works he calls Lighters. The Lighters ask formal aesthetic questions, such as what is this object, while also posing questions about what constitutes a photograph. They are products of the mind. They are revelations of the potential for something beautiful to happen when a human interacts with the materials and processes of the physical world in an open but intentional way, without a predetermined outcome in mind.

     

    Tillmans brings together images of humanity, nature and built environments from all over the globe. This exploratory gaze and conscious observation can help us to overcome habitual vision and perception. Mixing framed and unframed photographs in his presentation, the artist draws out relationships within the body of images as well as associations suggested by the individual pictures.

     

    In his installations he employs a free mix of images from widely divergent visual categories. The dividing lines between ‘queer’ and ‘straight’ or between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture seem to him entirely irrelevant.

     

    Alarmed by rise of anti-EU sentiment brewing in the UK and elsewhere across Europe and by a ‘Remain’ campaign, the artist Wolfgang Tillmans made 26 ready-to-print posters that alerted people to the seriousness of the choice before them.

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