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Issue No. 17 - Enigma

Book Review: 'Abstract Pictures' Wolfgang Tillmans

Book Review: 'Abstract Pictures' Wolfgang Tillmans

Image Above: Book Cover / Courtesy of Hatje Cantz

Image Above: Book Cover / Courtesy of Hatje Cantz

There is no wrong way to experience Wolfgang Tillmans’ latest book Abstract Pictures. A quick flip through the thick volume feels like traveling through a colorful, diverse dreamscape. A slower scan of the pages unveils distinct narratives of visuals in different sections–five sections, or “families” of images, to be exact. Choosing to delve into an individual image is a journey of its own. Abstract Pictures warrants multiple viewings, at all paces.

Image Above: ©Wolfgang Tillmans, It’s only love give it away, 2005 / Courtesy of Hatje Cantz

Image Above: ©Wolfgang Tillmans, It’s only love give it away, 2005 / Courtesy of Hatje Cantz

Abstract Images is the culmination of over two decades of work, utilizing photographic techniques, such as camera-less light exposure on photosensitive paper, colored ink, and darkroom manipulation. Tillmans is well-known for photographing prominent subjects–Lady Gaga, Kate Moss, and Frank Ocean, to name a few. Yet, these abstract images serve a very different purpose than reproducing a subject in an objective way–these images are their own, self-contained subjects. They are ballads of form.

Image Above: ©Wolfgang Tillmans, Lighter, blue convex III, 2010 / Courtesy of Hatje Cantz

Image Above: ©Wolfgang Tillmans, Lighter, blue convex III, 2010 / Courtesy of Hatje Cantz

Tillmans’ images exist in the tense realm of in-betweens: between control and abandon, between the URL and IRL. In the case of the Lighters series, they are pieces of paper printed in monochromatic ink, creased with purposeful mistakes inspired by printer jams. Displayed in Plexiglass boxes. These tactile, tangible glitches blend the random with the intentional, creating a fascinating topography.

Image Above: ©Wolfgang Tillmans, I don’t want to get over you, 2000 / Courtesy of Hatje Cantz

Image Above: ©Wolfgang Tillmans, I don’t want to get over you, 2000 / Courtesy of Hatje Cantz


I don’t want to get over you (2000) is altered with ink and development manipulation. Tillmans’ work will haunt you; the picture are entities of their own, but they do not fully exist without the viewer.

Text by Alexandra Glembocki

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