Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017

Today (the last day the exhibition was on!) I decided to make a trip to the Tate Modern to see the Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 exhibition.

Looking at a Photograph of a Dismantled Printer
Looking at a Photograph of a Dismantled Printer

I found the exhibition which I considered as a journey through his mind a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I didn’t really want it to end! There were many features of the exhibition which made it interesting for me but one which stood out was the presentation. As mentioned I considered it a journey through Wolfgang Tillmans’ mind and I felt the haphazard yet semi-organised layout could perhaps reflect the nature of his mind. This was further illustrated by the sticking or clipping of certain photographs to the wall while others were more conventionally framed. I gleaned from this that the framed ones might constitute more something of more importance to TIllmans or at least that they were more structured in his head. The same could also be said of the size of the prints, some of which were huge and filled most of the not insubstantial walls. Another aspect of the exhibition’s layout was the use of vitrines which I saw as adding even more depth to the exhibition. In some ways I liked the fact Tillmans had left the viewer to decide for themselves what the exhibition’s photographs were about because there was practically no information in the rooms. However, an exhibition handout explaining the photographs was on request.

Two People Looking at Two of Wolfgang Tillmans's Prints
Two People Looking at Two of Wolfgang Tillmans’s Prints

The often intimate documentation process was like a visual diary with a very honest and even democratic insight into Tillmans own life. I felt like I could learn from this for personal projects where he was seemingly indiscriminate of what he included in the camera’s view.

A Person Looking at a Portrait by Wolfgang Tillmans
A Person Looking at a Portrait by Wolfgang Tillmans
Two People Looking at a Portrait by Wolfgang Tillmans
Two People Looking at a Portrait by Wolfgang Tillmans

The majority of his work was in colour which was interesting to me. I felt the use of colour kept the photos more contemporary and immediate (and for the ones with political messages more topical). Although I felt he didn’t explicitly take advantage of colour like with colour relationships, the use of colour allowed him to be more personal and of course add vibrancy to the majority of photos. Having said that, one photograph caught my eye where he found the same colour palette of pink/purple and so used colour to his advantage there.

An Example of Where I Felt Tillmans Used Colour Well
An Example of Where I Felt Tillmans Used Colour Well
Someone from the Tate Looking at a Photograph of Static
Someone from the Tate Looking at a Photograph of Static

One area of the exhibition I felt was a bit self-indulgent initially (the accolades he had accumulated in a room of vitrines), came to grow on me if you were to take on board my assertions that Tillmans was taking you on a journey through his mind. In many people’s heads I imagine there would be a space for work you are proud of and would like to flaunt and Tillmans did so in this room. Likewise there was a room of portraits which I assumed had some significance to Tillmans which he had decided to share on a large scale. Nearby in the previous room there was a set of prints – portraits of people which for some reason had been printed much smaller but in a grid. I assumed this was people he had met more briefly and so were of less importance to him in his mind.

People Looking at the Exhibition Vitrines
People Looking at the Exhibition Vitrines

The thing I came away was a sense of Tillmans as a sensitive person who was highly aware of his surroundings and who wasn’t afraid to document his life for all to see and share it in some (very) big prints. One subject Tillmans addressed in his work was that of our perception of the modern world and when I was reading a review of Tillmans’ exhibition at the Tate Modern, I read a section that encapsulated what this might mean for him. The article was by the Guardian and the bit that caught my eye read: ‘In its shifting, mutating, circling inconstancy – and in its dynamic liveliness – this art reflects the condition of life itself. Until it ends, Tillmans’s enterprise must always be a work in progress, more seen and more shown by the day.’ – (Cumming, 2017). I felt this description mirrored what I saw in the exhibition and the modern climate for image sharing being prevalent throughout society.

A Person at the Exhibition Looking at a Photograph of a Photograph Being Transformed into a Physical Object
A Person at the Exhibition Looking at a Photograph of a Photograph Being Transformed into a Physical Object
I Felt the Illusion Was More Powerful in This Second, Similar Photograph
I Felt the Illusion Was More Powerful in This Second, Similar Photograph
Someone 'Reaching Out' for One of Wolfgang Tillmans's Prints!
Someone ‘Reaching Out’ for One of Wolfgang Tillmans’s Prints!
A Person Looking at a Massive Print by Wolfgang Tillmans
A Person Looking at a Massive Print by Wolfgang Tillmans

References:

Cumming, L. (2017). Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017; Eduardo Paolozzi review – from the chaos of time. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/feb/19/wolfgang-tillmans-2017-review-tate-modern-eduardo-paolozzi-whitechapel-gallery [Accessed 13 Jun. 2017].

Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 [Exhibition] 15th Feb – 11 Jun 2017. Tate Modern, London.

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