Paul, New York
“If one thing matters, everything matters.”
Based in Berlin and London, the German artist Wolfgang Tillmans (born 1968) is currently considered one of the world’s most influential photo artists. He started to take photographs during his teen years and in the early 1990’s worked for youth and lifestyle magazines such as Spex and The Face. In 1992, Tillmans had his breakthrough with the documentation of the Berlin Love Parade for the British lifestyle magazine i-D.
Within the artist‘s universe, reality is fragmented in a multitude of images which all integrate into a multi-layered formal and textual reference system. The subjects themselves nevertheless are extremely diverse: ranging from photo-scenes from the techno scene, pornographic images, still lifes, landscape photographs, to colour abstractions. His works include snapshot-like photographs, which capture a brief moment as well as carefully staged images and works, which entirely originated in the dark room. Tillmans‘ continuous questioning and further developing of the medium of photography turned him into one of the most influential cause variables in the history of photography.
Since 1993, Tillmans has exhibited his work in various galleries and museums, such as: Tate Britain (2008), Serpentine Gallery in London (2010), ”Kunsthalle Zürich”, Switzerland (2012), ”Moderna Museet, Stockholm”, Sweden (2012), ”MAM Museu de Arte Modernas de São Paulo, São Paulo”, Brazil (2012) and ”K21 in Düsseldorf”, Germany (2013). In 2000, he became the first German artist to receive the renowned Turner Prize. Since 2003 he is a professor for interdisciplinary art at the ”Städelschule” in Frankfurt, Germany.
The work “Paul, New York” from 1994 is the artist‘s biggest C-print format with a size of 145 x 211 cm. In this work, Paul is shown leaning against a concrete railing looking at the nighttime New York skyline, which seems to be tinted in a warm red tone. Tillmans lived in the American metropolis from 1994-1995 and used it as the base of many of his works.
From the very beginning, the core of Tillman‘s work is focusing on the image and the question how meaning evolves on a piece of paper. Consequently, Tillmans works analog and creates direct replica of reality, which only came into being due to the light and meeting a light sensitive surface like film for example. Light is therefore one of the core topics of his oeuvre. Tillmans nevertheless can be committed to neither certain subjects nor techniques. He presents his pictures in a distinctive, highly individual manner, avoiding any visual hierarchy and thereby turning his exhibitions into overall installations linked to specific locations. Framed and unframed photographs hang alongside each other, C-prints next to inkjet prints or simple photocopies.
The artist wants to convey authenticity, fully aware of the fact that it is always and first and foremost his own truth, ”By doing so I don‘t want to say that I know the truth but that I‘m interested in it. How is it possible that different people assess the same situation in a completely different way and consider it the truth? (…) This relativity of truth is what I constantly experience and negotiate in my work.“