Wolfgang Tillmans @ The Common Guild
You’ll rarely find a lone artwork by Wolfgang Tillmans. His photographs – some of them large, some of them small – are more or less always seen together, collected in groups of two or more. That’s how they work. They sit side by side to disclose their charms, each photograph dependent on another to reveal its significance.
This is partly due to the variety of subject matter Tillmans chooses to photograph. At his solo show at The Common Guild, Glasgow, we see an onion, a flower, some car headlights, a derelict building, a man on a mobile phone and some people at a marketplace somewhere on another continent. The only thing tying these disparate subjects together is their inclusion in the exhibition. Otherwise the random snapshots of a well-travelled individual, only together do they take on any kind of relevance; by their sitting side by side we get the sense of an overarching purpose that’s not merely haphazard or incidental.
That’s not to say anything necessarily tangible is revealed by the mere proximity of two works at The Common Guild. It’s not simply a matter of sticking random works together and letting the audience decide what the relationship might signify. Nothing, for instance, is divulged by the proximity of OP, 2011 – a picture of two surgeons operating on a person’s open torso – to Ursuppe, 2010 – an image of a concrete walkway at the edge of some water. They are simply captured moments – one captured moment sitting beside another captured moment.
This is precisely what makes Tillmans’ work so compelling. The fragments of an undisclosed whole, his photographs are items in an archive the magnitude of which makes it incomprehensible. You could spend your entire life exploring his vast output and never complete the picture; each image a mere fragment, an infinitesimal moment, in the transient, fleeting rush of a life lived. [Andrew Cattanach]