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Wolfgang Tillmans: Fragile

After showing in Kinshasa and Nairobi, the ifa Touring Exhibition Wolfgang Tillmans: Fragile – in cooperation with Wolfgang Tillmans – will be exhibited at the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) from 9 July to 30 September 2018.

Wolfgang Tillmans, Italian Coastal Guard Flying Rescue Mission off Lampedusa, 2008

     The work of German photographer Wolfgang Tillmans occupies a prominent position in the contemporary art world. Ever since his first exhibitions and publications in the early 1990s, Tillmans’ artistic approaches have continually developed – he is constantly redefining photography both as an image and as a material artefact, be it in the museum space or as an object on the printed page: ‘At the most basic level, all I do every day is work with pieces of paper. I shape colours and dyes on paper, creating objects that carry more meaning than just the content of the image on their surface.’ Tillmans’ artistic work is based on his never-ceasing curiosity, his intensive research in preparation, and a constant testing and advancing of the medium and its technical and aesthetic potential.
     His visual language derives from precise observations that reveal a deeply human approach to our environment. Emotions like familiarity, empathy, friendship, and intimacy are visible and tangible in his pictures. There is hardly any other artist whose work is so shaped by the strength of community.

Wolfgang Tillmans: Fragile
Wolfgang Tillmans, Deer Hirsch, 1995

     Wolfgang Tillmans’ oeuvre encompasses his pictures of club culture in the 1990s, abstract works based on extreme formal reduction, an art on paper and an art in space, the beauty of the everyday and pictures of the sublime, a sensual gaze full of physical desire and an analytical perspective with great social and political awareness. Tillmans’ approach can be seen as an appeal for freedom and an invitation to encounter others fearlessly and with open-minded curiosity. For Tillmans, acceptance of the fragility that defines us as individuals and that plays into our relations with each other is not a weakness – it is a great strength. He has been aware of this interplay since his youth, and it runs through his entire artistic work, going back to his teenage years. Fragile refers to an early artist’s name chosen by Tillmans and the name of his music project, while it also gives this touring exhibition its title.
     The exhibition tour includes a catalogue in English and French with the authors writing for the catalogue offering diverse perspectives on aspects of the work of Wolfgang Tillmans. At each venue, there will also be a local author providing further views, anchoring the exhibition in a local setting, establishing links and new points of reference.

To read more about Wolfgang Tillmans, and how he uses failure, ruptures, and frailty as impulses to develop new processes, or to read about how his interest in dialogue also reflect the central philosophy and concerns in the work of ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen – an institute for international and cultural relations), purchase our June issue, or continue supporting the arts by subscribing to our monthly magazine.

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