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£200,000 - 300,000 ♠
sold for £435,000
Galería Juana de Aizpuru, Madrid
Acquired from the above by the present owner in June 2008
Contemplative and mystical, Einzelgänger VIII marks Wolfgang Tillmans’ rare, mesmerising and expressive first series of abstract configurations from 2003. An explosion of deep red hues envelops the viewer, a majestic example of Tillmans’ expert diffusion of light. The graceful composition, liquid-like in its fluidity, is developed by hand, each mark achieved through the artist’s own gestures when exposing photographic paper to light. Bringing creative possibilities to the fore of his practice, Tillmans’ abstract photographic compositions have been the subject of two recent major exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London, and the Fondation Beyeler, Riehen, internationally highlighting the importance of the innovative artist’s pioneering and progressive photographic experimentations.
Exposing the purest form of photography through the use of a light pen, Tillmans’ abstract compositions, which have gradually evolved, transcend traditional artistic categorisation. Clouds of pigment diffuse across the plain, the veins of black reflecting the artist’s physical presence in the artistic process. Composing his subject through his manipulation of light, the artist records his own movement in time. This original body of work marks the beginning of the artist's gradual and progressive journey toward abstraction. Followed by his larger Freischwimmer series and then, following a short break, the Greifbar works, the Einzelgänger series is a deep, sombre and contemplative series. Through his abstract compositions the artist has forged a new reality, one which bridges the gap between photography and painting. Defining his abstractions as photographs, Tillmans also notes that ‘photography is only a continuation of sculpture and painting. I see myself in the tradition of picture-making... Art that stays has invented new ways of picture-making. If I can invent something once a year, for 50 years, I’m very happy’ (Wolfgang Tillmans, quoted in Scott Timburg, 'Mix and match photographs', Los Angeles Times, 16 September 2006, online). The artist’s personal and gestural involvement in the process, however, takes the work beyond the traditional medium of photography. Einzelgänger VIII celebrates the pioneering nature of Tillmans’ practice; he has created a photograph without a negative and without a camera. An alchemist, Tillmans simply paints with light.
Relying on a seemingly uncontrollable energy such as light, Tillmans’ compositions utilise chance as an active and crucial ingredient to create symphonic optical effects. On the process Tillmans notes, ‘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’ (Wolfgang Tillmans, quoted in Dominic Eicher, 'Look again', Frieze, issue 118, October 2008, online). Probing the very essence of photographic processes, Einzelgänger VIII evokes the early experimental investigations of László Moholy-Nagy and György Kepes, whilst displaying an affinity to the modernist, meditative Colour Field paintings of Mark Rothko. Emitting an aura akin to the Rothko Chapel in Houston, the present work is captivating in its profound, gestural and contemplative hues. Interrogating the nature of perception through diverse techniques, Tillmans, like his experimental predecessors, constantly challenges the standards of artistic creation through the altered perspective of photography. Where Moholy-Nagy, in the 1920s, was one of the first artists to experiment with placing objects, including his own hand, onto light-sensitive paper, creating ‘a bridge leading to a new visual creation for which canvas, paintbrush, and pigment cannot serve’ (László Moholy-Nagy, quoted in ‘Photogram arid Frontier Zones’, Fotogram und Grenzgebeite, i10, no. 21/22, 1929, pp. 190-192), Tillmans provides a contemporary exploration of the qualities of space, time, light and interaction. Einzelgänger VIII transcends categorisation and serves as a superlative example of the artist’s mastery of photographic processes.
Unidentifiable, the viewer attempts to unravel the multitude of formations; the misty haze across the plane of the work could be mistaken for a passing moment in nature rather than the artist’s active manipulation of light. The transformative power of Tillmans’ technique is central to the composition, the subject becomes subordinate to the aesthetic power of the charged image and the importance of the artwork itself is emphasised. Literally translating to ‘loner’, Einzelgänger VIII, a landscape drawn into abstraction, directs the viewer towards the solitary process of its creation and appreciation. The artist, together with the energy of light, composes the mystical work, creating depth within the void of the plane.
Illusionary in its abstraction, the present work is an ethereal example of Tillmans’ mastery of light. Einzelgänger VIII demonstrates the esteemed artist’s exceptional ability to channel energy, questioning contemporary notions of perception whilst presenting the viewer with a mirage in red and black. Creating lustrous strokes Tillmans forges a new sublime reality, a realm freed from the constraints of hierarchy and doctrine.
German • 1968
Since the early 1990s, Wolfgang Tillmans has pushed the boundaries of the photographic medium. Challenging the indexical nature traditionally associated with photography, his abstract and representational photographic bodies of work each in their own way put forward the notion of the photograph as object—rather than as a record of reality. While achieving his breakthrough with portraits and lifestyle photographs, documenting celebrity culture as well as LGBTQ communities and club culture, since the turn of the millennium the German photographer has notably created abstract work such as the Freischwimmer series, which is made in the darkroom without a camera.
Seamlessly integrating genres, subject matters, techniques and exhibition strategies, Tillmans is known for photographs that pair playfulness and intimacy with a persistent questioning of dominant value and hierarchy structures of our image-saturated world. In 2000, Tillmans was the first photographer to receive the prestigious Turner Prize.
£200,000 - 300,000 ♠
sold for £435,000
London Auction 6 October 2017