Wolfgang Tillmans

Art Free
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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When Wolfgang Tillmans won the Turner Prize in 2000 it felt like a statement about the future: he was the first photographer to win it, and the first non-UK artist. His club kids and glowing foliage seemed casual and recognisable. Superficially his photography hasn’t changed that much: this show features plenty of Tillmans tropes: apparently snapped portraits, giant inkjet prints of gorgeous blazing colour. But he has changed, as his website says, ‘from an inherently political, to an overtly political person’. He has been outspoken in his criticism of Brexit, and the entrance to the gallery is papered with his flyposters and those he has inspired other artists to create (you can join in too!). 

You can see why leaving the EU is so particularly threatening to Tillmans: his is a genuinely European vision, a kind of extreme anti-extremism. Poised between high and low culture, his work challenges both with its subtlty and vividness. Anything can become suffused with meaning and beauty: surgical equipment, a disembowelled office printer, a lit window. But anything can also imply a question. One giant print, ‘The State We’re In’, shows the infinite slate-grey waters of the Atlantic at a point where, officially, borders and timelines intersect. It makes a geopolitical point, for sure, but it also represents an unrepeatable moment. This is Tillmans’s own statement about the future. Never mind the prizes and the galleries and the gladhanding. Get this wrong, and we’re fucked.


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