‘I don’t think in media-specific categories. I think first of all, “A field of colour is a field of colour”’
With its rhapsodic linear formations dispersed across glistening pools of light and shadow, the present work stems from Wolfgang Tillmans’ celebrated Freischwimmer series. Executed on a monumental scale, these works pose an elegant challenge to the boundaries between painting, drawing and photography. Working in the darkroom without a camera, the artist uses his hands as stencils to direct light onto photographic paper, manipulating it across the surface to create unpredictable patterns of line and colour. 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. As a teenager, he was fascinated by printed media, and recalls experimenting with a photocopier capable of enlarging images by up to 400 percent. ‘I’m always interested in the question of when something becomes something, or not, and how do we know?’, the artist explains (W. Tillmans, quoted at https:// artreview.com/features/feature_wolfgang_tillmans/ [accessed 7 December 2016]). On one hand, the present work signals the artist’s increased fascination with abstraction, inviting comparison with the work of Colour Field painters such as Morris Louis and Helen Frankenthaler. At the same time, its surface conjures memories of the figurative world: of smoke, water or molecules under a microscope. Suspended between categories of style and medium, the Freischwimmer works represent an important chapter in Tillmans’ practice, with examples are held international museum collections including Tate, London, the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main. His contribution to photography will be celebrated with a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2021.