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Wolfgang Tillmans (B. 1968)
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Wolfgang Tillmans (B. 1968)

Urgency XVI

Details
Wolfgang Tillmans (B. 1968)
Urgency XVI
chromogenic print, flush-mounted on Dibond in artist’s frame
signed and numbered in pencil ‘Wolfgang Tillmans 1/1 + 1’ on affixed label (frame backing board)
sheet: 67 3/8 x 89 ¾ in. (171 x 228 cm.)
framed: 71 ¼ x 92 7/8 in. (181 x 236 cm.)
Executed in 2006, this work is number one from an edition of one plus one artist's proof
Provenance
Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Special Notice

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in lots consigned for sale which may include guaranteeing a minimum price or making an advance to the consignor that is secured solely by consigned property. This is such a lot. This indicates both in cases where Christie's holds the financial interest on its own, and in cases where Christie's has financed all or a part of such interest through a third party. Such third parties generally benefit financially if a guaranteed lot is sold successfully and may incur a loss if the sale is not successful.
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Jeremy Morrison
Jeremy Morrison

Lot Essay

‘These pictures were essentially made “dry” – only with light and my hands. Created in the dark room without negative and without camera, they’re made purely through the manipulation of light on paper. In this respect, their own reality, their creation and their time are absolutely central to their meaning: the time that I spend with the material in which I explore and intensify different effects. This intuitive recording and application of light, while a physical process, is at the same time liberated from a linguistic or painterly gesture of complete control.’ WOLFGANG TILLMANS

‘What connects all my work is finding the right balance between intention and chance, doing as much as I can and knowing when to let go, allowing fluidity and avoiding anything being forced.’ WOLFGANG TILLMANS

‘Colour runs in thin, animated strands across the length of the paper’s textured, unglossed surface; these strands, like tiny rivulets of liquid dye spreading over and into water-soaked fabric, condense to the point of semi-blackness at the centre of the individual dribbles and disperse at their edges into hazes and scrims of brighter, softer hue. The formidable size, restricted palette, and smouldering quality of the colour when it turns densest and darkest – all this lends the work a grand and sombre, even elegiac feel. But the work also possesses the elegant lyricism of drawing, albeit without the strenuous carving and chiselling into space that usually results from drawing’s line. Tillmans makes colour and line appear as one indistinguishable substance; instead of colour being confined by and filling in drawn profile, here colour seems to thicken and extend into its own tendrilled shapes, arriving at forms and fields that look organically spawned’. LANE RELYEA



With its mesmeric clouds of colour, punctuated by delicate lines, strands and rivulets, Wolfgang Tillmans’ Urgency XVI lyrically transcends the boundaries between photography, painting and drawing. Staining the surface like rippling swathes of ink, hair-like tendrils unfold in sinuous formations, veiled by smouldering chromatic fields that shift in and out of focus. Executed on a vast scale, spanning over two metres in width, the work belongs to Tillmans’ Urgency series. With another example held in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, it is closely related to the Freischwimmer, Blushes, Peaches and Starstruck series that collectively encapsulate his dialogue with abstraction. ‘These pictures were essentially made “dry” – only with light and my hands’, he explains. ‘Created in the dark room without negative and without camera, they’re made purely through the manipulation of light on paper. In this respect, their own reality, their creation and their time are absolutely central to their meaning: the time that I spend with the material in which I explore and intensify different effects. This intuitive recording and application of light, while a physical process, is at the same time liberated from a linguistic or painterly gesture of complete control’ (Wolfgang Tillmans, quoted at http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/art/picture-galleries/2014/march/05/the-wolfgang-tillmans-picturegallery/ [accessed 3 September 2017]). In the present work, line, colour and space are rendered inseparable, reduced to ephemeral by-products of Tillmans’ technique. Hints of figurative reality – of smoke, water and fire – lurk in its hazy pools of light. Recently celebrated in a major retrospective at Tate, London, and currently the subject of another at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Tillmans asks how photography – stripped of its traditional apparatus – can reveal invisible, alchemical states of being that exist beyond the everyday scope of our vision.

Tillmans rose to prominence in the 1990s, initially publishing fashion and club shots in the magazine i-D before going on to become the first photographic artist to win the Turner Prize in 2000. He was deeply influenced by artists who saw the world through screens, including Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol and Kurt Schwitters. As a teenager, Tillmans recalls experimenting with a photocopier that could enlarge greyscale photographs in increments up to 400 percent. ‘I became completely fascinated by how this industrially fabricated paper, that has no particular value, could be transformed into a beautifully charged, special and precious object through the touch of a button’, he explains. ‘For me that was a moment of initiation, and the way that I actually came to photography: in the realisation that, apparently, through other means besides my own hands, meaning can be instilled through the mechanics and in the material itself’ (W. Tillmans, quoted at http://uk.phaidon.com/agenda/art/picture-galleries/2014/march/05/thewolfgang-tillmans-picture-gallery/ [accessed 10 January 2017]). As Lane Relyea has written, these early experiments harboured the seeds of his later abstract works. ‘It’s no coincidence that Tillmans’s earliest works were made by enlarging found photos on a laser copier, and that his childhood interest was astronomy’, he observes. ‘Finding pattern and meaning by looking straight down or straight up, close in or far away, have proved foundational form him. And this also helps explain why Tillmans has been able to so seamlessly expand his practice into the realm of abstraction, especially with those works resulting from darkroom experiments that make no use at all of the camera and the film negatives it produces … Against the horizon-scanning orientation of the camera, privileged here is the vertical action between overhead illumination and impressionable material below. Sky, stars, passing airplanes, and dancehall lights on the one hand and landscape, puddled or spread materials, discarded clothes, and exhausted bodies on the other. The switch in orientation itself points the way from realism to abstraction’ (L. Relyea, quoted in Wolfgang Tillmans, exh. cat., Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2006, p. 91).

Tillmans’ abstract works invite comparison with the visual e?ects of the Colour Field artists – most notably the staining techniques of Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler. Despite their painterly qualities, however, works such Urgency XVI remain firmly positioned between media. ‘It is important that these are not paintings’, Tillmans explains: ‘as the eye recognizes these as photographic, the association with machine in the head connects them to reality, whereas a painting is always understood by the eye as mark making by the artist’ (W. Tillmans, quoted in D. Eichler, Wolfgang Tillmans: Abstract Pictures, Ostfildern 2011, p. 24). As such, Tillmans’ abstract works represent a new, hybrid mode of image-making: they are photographs made without cameras, drawings made without pencils, expanses of colour made without brushes. ‘I don’t think in media-specific categories’, he asserts. ‘I think first of all, “A field of colour is a field of colour”’ (W. Tillmans, quoted in D. Birnbaum, ‘A New visual Register for Our Perceptual Apparatus’, in Wolfgang Tillmans, exh. cat., Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2006, p. 16). Following this maxim, Urgency XVI proposes a new, organic future for the interaction of colour, light and form.

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