Wolfgang Tillmans review

4 out of 5 stars
Wolfgang Tillmans review
Wolfgang Tillmans 'Greifbar 77' (2018) © Wolfgang Tillmans. Image courtesy of Maureen Paley, London

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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Wolfgang Tillmans’s giant Tate survey show back in 2017 was a little overwhelming. It was a whole person on display; his passions, his art, his personality. You were dwarfed by the photographer and his life. This small show is a gentler, calmer look at the artist.

Spread across the gallery’s two floors is a set of almost entirely abstract, or at least approaching abstract, work. Downstairs, big smears of colour – like dropped dustings of pigment on fields of white – find Tillmans experimenting in the darkroom, creating images with no camera, just by toying with the process. Upstairs, he experiments with photocopying, repeating, enlarging and distorting images. Characters from a photo of people on a boat appear zoomed in and pixelated in other works, isolated and abstracted. There are photocopies of sweaters and pants, their folds and creases becoming topographical maps, or zoomed in to pure grainy black.

The only thing that lets the show down is a seemingly endless series of pictures of Old Street roundabout, taken from a million different angles. They disrupt the show’s gentle edging towards abstraction and mess with the flow.

But the rest of the works feel like a calculated, meditative exercise in looking. It's like Tillmans is asking you to forget context, history and emotion and just look. It’s simple, beautiful art for complicated, ugly times.


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