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Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968)

Freischwimmer 120

Wolfgang Tillmans (b. 1968)
Freischwimmer 120
signed 'Wolfgang Tillmans' (on a label affixed to the reverse)
c-print in artist's frame
72 x 96in. (182.9 x 243.8cm.)
Executed in 2006, this work is number one from an edition of one plus one artist's proof
Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.
Private Collection, Oslo.
Special notice

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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Lot Essay

‘… as the title suggests, and the work intimates, a sense of fluidity is evoked in the mind of the viewer even though 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’

In Wolfgang Tillmans’ Freischwimmer 120, hypnotic pools of colour and light swim freely across the surface of the picture plane, sweeping and cascading in glowing elemental formations. Executed on a monumental scale, rippling tendrils and hazy miasmas shift in and out of focus, evocative of underwater kingdoms and intergalactic voids. Made in the dark room without a camera, the work takes its place within the artist’s celebrated Freischwimmer series, which elegantly challenges the boundaries between painting and photography. Using his hands as stencils, Tillmans directs light onto photographic paper, manipulating it across the surface to form incalculable fusions of colour and line. With examples held in international museum collections, including those of Tate, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, the Freischwimmer occupy pivotal territory in Tillmans’ ongoing exploration of the photographic medium. ‘In Freischwimmer there is the most depth in the pictorial space’, he asserts. ‘All associations with liquidity that the image and the name might suggest is made with light and without any liquids or other chemicals. It is important that these are not paintings: 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). Recently celebrated in a major retrospective at Tate, London, and currently the subject of another at the Fondation Beyeler, Basel, Tillmans asks how photography – freed from its traditional tools – can envision new states of being.

‘I don’t think in media-specific categories’, claims Tillmans. ‘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). Deeply influenced by artists who saw the world through screens, including Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol, Tillmans has worked to close the gap between painting and photography. As a teenager, he was fascinated by printed images, and 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 2014/march/05/the-wolfgangtillmans- picture-gallery/ [accessed 20 July 2017]). The free-flowing surfaces of the Freischwimmer have been visually likened to Colour Field painting, in particular the staining techniques espoused by artists such Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler. Though indicative of his increasing turn towards abstraction, however, these works equally offer momentary glimpses of figurative reality: of smoke, electricity or molecular tissue. ‘I’m always interested in the question of when something becomes something, or not, and how do we know?’ he explains (Wolfgang Tillmans, quoted at https://artreview. com/features/feature_wolfgang_tillmans/ [accessed 25 July 2017]). Conjuring a world both familiar and strange, the present work embodies this between-state.

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