Wolfgang Tillmans (1968, Remcheid, Germany) established his reputation as a social critic and portrayer of a generation with his photography of counter-culture British youth in the 1990s. His fascination with the process of photography has shaped the notion of plurality in his own images, from his first photo (a self-portrait displaying only his knee) through his early experiences with the amplifying feature of the first photocopy machines in the 1980s. The dialogue between shadow and light, interceptions, duality and still moments all feature prominently in his work.
His latest exhibition, On the Verge of Visibility, at the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Oporto, presents us with an assortment of pictures since the 1980s to the 2010s from Photocopy Pictures to Vertical Landscapes.
The concept of photography in On the Verge of Visibility is closely connected to the concept of picture (forms, shapes and colors are more essential than the objects and subjects depicted) as photography is used as a system to create pictures and the print itself has utmost importance.
This exhibition is a visual embodiment of organicity aiding visibility, as both the exhibition space and the architectural design of Serralves, were physically transformed by Tillmans to flawlessly suit his installations (which he sets as a teenager in his own room).
The duality of light/shadow was manipulated by the artist, who built new walls to allow or cover the passage of light: the vision is manipulated, interrupted, focused or blocked. This duality is also evident in his images, as in Italian costal guard flying rescue mission off Lampedusa (2008), where the overwhelming strength of white light cuts through the dark clouds above Lampedusa. In Tillmans the lack of light is as meaningful as its excess.
Vertical Landscapes, is an expression of the visual phenomena that occurs when Day (space of freedom) meets Night, when Light meets Dark, where Sky meets Land/Sea. This concept of balance of a physical border between two different worlds can be perceived as a metaphor for national borders. There is a sense of universality in On the Verge of Visibility; the places where the pictures were shot are meaningless, as they could be set anywhere in the world. Borders are now only limits to what is visible.
On the Verge of Visibility is curated by Suzanne Cotter and can be seen until the 25th of April, 2016 in the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves.
by: Maria da Luz Rivara