Wolfgang Tillmans at the Serpentine

If you go to the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition at the Serpentine, you are welcomed into a mix-tape of photography frailty, beauty, and (most importantly to the artist,) experimentation. Composed to uncomposed, perfected to left.

Tillman’s exhibition is one of varied taste – it’s not easy to gage what makes him passionate, yet this is far from disconcerting because it appears he has a passion simply for taking unique shots, and it is invested in individually unconnected, but very enjoyable outcomes. At points it appears it is light that interests him most, for example Paperdrop (Puma) 2007; sometimes composition e.g. Roy 2009; in some photographs narratives are exalted, Anders Pulling Splinter From his Foot, 2004; and on many it is photographic exploration: Gedser 2004. (I urge you to look these up as exemplary specimens.)

Now I know I have said this before about another piece of work (The Jewish Bride by Rembrandt, after seeing it in November), but I believe I’ve now seen the most beautiful piece of artistry put before my eyes. And, I don’t think it is completely unjust or fickle to change my mind on my favourites – to have found another which rivals the first in the course of a year, from the many exhibitions and permanent collections I’ve viewed, I think that it is still only proportionate and true to my devotion to good taste.

Ostgut Freischwimmer, 2004 by Wolfgang Tillmans, is both the most bewilderingly beautiful photograph (that which it is), and painting (that which it appears) I’ve come across, (those which are my two favourite mediums).

It is not often that I cannot correct any part of the work; to the extent that I am stunned by the work itself and have no consideration deeper into the realms of analysis – that’s when you know you’ve seen real beauty. You just want to stare: “Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Drop knowing something. You are not here long.” (Walker Evans, American photographer.) Just look at this piece and see how it captures your imagination, how it stuns your senses. It is somewhere between the tracts of a falling feather, or a rustling bag caught in wind, or paper as it floats to the floor. It’s alive with definite but delicate movement. It feels like it’s in a deep place, but not to the depths of entrapment, but to the depths of new unexplored places (the work itself is experimental, it’s new); like a sea creature gliding the sea floor. It’s a ballet dancer – Tchaikovsky’s Swan. It’s dumbfoundedly creative, and yet surprisingly simple and quiet. It’s a lady who is completely casual, but very prim. And I’ve watched how she charms on the catwalk.

If this doesn’t appeal to you, there will be something of Tillman’s that will: it is that varied.

This show continues until, at the Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens, London.



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