Wolfgang Tillmans

Well I’m not quite sure what to make of the exhibition I visited today at the Tate Modern. Perhaps dragging my reluctant 13-year-old son , with hiccups!, to accompany me didn’t help but I found that I left feeling puzzled.  I wish I had researched Wolfgang Tillman beforehand to know more, the exhibition felt chaotic and disorderly but I am guessing this was the point?  I didn’t notice at first the photographs up high so I had to loop back slightly but they are difficult to view. So many varied images and no cohesive theme. I felt as though his attention flitted between things and I wanted to tune out the neighbouring images to focus on them individually. Further on in the exhibition I realised that the images were once perhaps grouped into collections as there were books that joined them together.

A lot of the images were not ones I particularly liked however there were a few that I either enjoyed or interested me. He has an eclectic vision and appears to have snapped what interested him or possibly amused him at that moment in time and they are presented here in one place for the world to see.

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It is only on reading the booklet from the exhibition that I learnt more about the technical marvels of the images, and his processes, there is limited information provided as you walk round, I presume so you can reach your own interpretation.

The images I partially liked were:

‘Paper drop’ – I liked the sharp edge of the curve with the out of focus background, I am aware it is three-dimensional but I can also see the drop as a flat abstract shape. It is remarkable that the reflections inside the drop match the shadows on the outside with such precision.

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WOLFGANG TILLMANS paper drop Prinzessinnenstrasse 2014

‘The state we’re in’ – a vast seascape where there is only a small sliver of sky left. You can just make out land on the top left when looking closely at the image in the exhibition but the detail is in the waves and texture of the ocean. It feels immense and is humbling, perhaps more so given the size of the image on display, you can sense the depth of the ocean by the depth of the image and the deep depth of field.

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WOLFGANG TILLMANS The State We’re In, A 2015

‘La Palma’ – the image caught of sea-foam could almost be a snowy landscape of melting, ebbing snow. The surf is so thick and milky and leaving behind it a vast black hole.

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‘Transient’ – how many pictures have I taken of cloudscapes whilst on a plane? The title suggests either being of no particular place or transcending life. The colours were so muted and calm , a slice of an idyllic heaven perhaps.

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WOLFGANG TILLMANS Transient 2 2015

‘Blushes#136’ – I love the powdered texture of these images. This one appears to almost resemble hands on the other side of the paper trying to break through. It is a bit like ink blots where you can make and see different things. I am intrigued by how these could have been created?

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WOLFGANG TILLMANS Blushes#136 2014

‘Arms and legs’ – I found unsettling, it is apparent that the hand belongs to a different person to the legs and I understand this collection is about sexuality but the fact that I can’t see the faces or expressions troubles me. Perhaps because it left my brain with the question…are they are happy or willing? It makes it feel violating , groping, whereas the truth may be that they were at ease, consenting and enjoying the affection.

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WOLFGANG TILLMANS arms and legs 2014

My son liked the image ‘Headlight’ (he does like cars!) But it was interesting to find out that he collected images of headlights and recorded their change over time, he noted how ‘the more angular shapes appeared predatory which might reflect a more competitive climate’. (Wolfang Tillmans 2017 Exhibition guide Tate Modern – Page 3)

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WOLFGANG TILLMANS Headlight (f) 2012

I was surprised how political and thought-provoking the exhibition was , so on the one hand although I didn’t overly enjoy the visit whilst I was there it has left me thinking more about things and almost wanting to go back for a second look!

I had to have a quick look to see my ‘cloudscapes’, I have to admit I think I must take pictures on every flight and the windows are often so scratched or frosty that they never come out as well as they look. But I can never resist! They’re not quite as serene or tranquil as Wolfgang Tillmans ‘Transient’.

I even had some coiled paper images although nowhere near as beautiful as ‘paper drop’:


One thought on “Wolfgang Tillmans

  1. I saw this with an OCA study visit and it did make it more accessible. It was vast though – he seems to work within All The Genres. Like you, I loved Paper Drop and some of his other more abstract work. I liked that his portraits were so tender and completely non-judgemental. I think we need more work like that.

    Liked by 1 person

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