‘Renaissance man’ Tillmans show blends politics and art

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 15, 2017 - 13:23
  • Updated : Feb 15, 2017 - 13:23

Fake news, Brexit and genitals: a Wolfgang Tillmans exhibition opening at the Tate Modern on Wednesday is an eclectic show that the edgy German artist says is as much about poetry and art as politics.

“I want you to feel encouraged by the curiosity that I have for the world, to also not be afraid of the world and to not let fear be implanted in your brain,” the photographer said at a press preview.

“The exhibition is not about politics. It is just as much about poetry, about art, about installation art.”

An employee poses in front of an artwork entitled “Market I, 2012” by German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans, during a photocall to promote the forthcoming exhibition “Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017” at the Tate Modern in London on Tuesday. (AFP-Yonhap)
Tillmans, who was the first photographer and non-British artist to win the prestigious Turner art prize in 2000, displays an impressive breadth of work encompassing videos, slideshows and even music.

But politics is hard to escape in this show, starting with the posters he designed as part of his campaign to keep Britain within the European Union ahead of a referendum last year in which Brexit ultimately won.

It is also at the heart of his “truth study centers,” a project which he started working on in 2005 but which has particular resonance now in an era of “post-truth” and fake news in political discourse.

These centers consist of photographs, drawings, clipping from newspapers and magazines aimed at highlighting how information is often shaped to fit the viewpoint of those who present it.

Tillmans “feels where things might go because he has an eye for the world,” Chris Dercon, the exhibition’s lead curator explained.

Dercon described the German artist as “a Renaissance man for the 21st century.”

“He’s adding something to the world. He wants us to be an accomplice to the image. He‘s not taking pictures, he is making pictures.”

He emphasized Tillmans’s ability to mix old codes, such as still life, with a more modern approach.

One such photograph is “Astro Crusto,” a still life photograph of lobsters, in the style of a 17th-century painting, only a fly has flown into the still.

There is also a photograph of male genitals in the exhibition entitled “Nackt, 2” which echoes 19th century French artist Gustave Courbet’s famous painting of a vagina called “L’Origine du monde” (The Origin of the World).

The “Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017” exhibition runs until June 11. (AFP)