Artist's Statement: Wolfgang Tillmans at the Liverpool Biennial

Wolfgang Tillmans interviewed by Mark Sheerin | 21 September 2010
Photo of an artist standing in front of a wall hung with a historic painting and two experimental photographs
Wolfgang Tillman sheds light on Room 7 of Walker Art Gallery
Artist’s Statement: In his own words... Wolfgang Tillmans talks about hanging two of his latest works, Lighter, red II and Lighter, AC3 in the Walker Art Gallery, as part of a Liverpool Biennial exhibition which includes 12 of his contemporary photographs among the historic collection.

"So the interesting challenge here was when I was invited to place my work, which the Arts Council Collection had recently acquired, inside the historic collection of the Walker. And of course every bit of wall space is used in a historical collection like this. It's not like a modern museum where there is space sometimes between the works.

Everything is full and so you have to make room. You have to somehow make decisions as to what might have to move and everything is of course already highly, highly selected in a museum. Only 10% of whatever a museum owns is hanging. It's sort of quite a responsibility to say what can move.

On this wall here there were different points of interest. First of all there is a great Turner one of the more abstract looking types. We don't know if Turner thought of it as abstract because the term didn't really exist as such, but it's totally light infused. And then I learned that this huge painting of a church ruin at night is by Daguerre, who is the inventor of photography as in daguerrotype (co-inventor, because Talbot is the other inventor).

His painting again is about light and the absence of light as it is a nightscape with moonlight. It's a very dramatic neighbourhood of Turner and Daguerre, of daylight and moonlight, so that drew my attention. Here is somebody who really invented my medium, photography, and he was a painter before and the painting is all about light.

So I asked if a second Turner painting to the right could be moved, because I have these two pieces which the Arts Council bought, which are both called Lighter and they are photographs which have not been taken with the camera. They are actually objects. They are sheets of photographic paper which are folded and then exposed in the darkroom to light, and the picture that emerges is a representation of the three dimensionality of this sheet of paper.

So it's like an entangled thing of two dimensions and three dimensions, like a photograph that no longer represents the world as it is supposed to be, but that is asserting itself as an independent object.

Then I asked for two paintings which were hanging higher up to be removed to create a more contemporary hanging on this wall, but also to reveal the shadows that have been burnt into the red wallpaper fabric over many, many years.

So now you have this wall that is on the one hand hung in an unusually clean and straight way, but also reveals these patches of darker red where the other paintings have been, so its like a multi-layered conversation about different manifestations of light.

I didn't think that I was asking for anything unreasonable [from the gallery] but I was also aware that in these institutions there are different departments, different people responsible for different things that were not involved initially with this project. So they had to be asked.

They had to be convinced and it was made very easy for me, but there was actually a lot of organising in the background to make sure this was all happening. They were super helpful and really great."

12 works by Wolfgang Tillmans can be seen at The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, until December 12 2010. Admission free. Open 11am-5pm daily.
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