Art exhibitions can be expensive. But one of the (few) benefits of living in London is that there is a large number of galleries, separate from the big guns such as the Tate and the National, which host free displays of current work from some of the biggest names in the art world.
And they’re not all packed in Mayfair either.
For example, there’s haunting work from Georg Baselitz on display at the White Cube in Bermondsey, Yayoi Kusama’s installations have taken over Victoria Miro near Old Street, and now Maureen Paley, which is just minutes from Bethnal Green tube station, is showing recent works from the Wolfgang Tillmans – one of the most exciting artists working today.
The display is small – only a few rooms – but it makes a big impact for what Wolfgang is showing is, in this time of disharmony over migration and EU referendum, is that what unites us is far more profound than what divides us.
The central work is The State We’re In, an image that captures the point in the Atlantic Ocean where international time lines and borders intersect. The line, of course, is unmarked – an invisible almost arbitrary demarcation that nature has no interest in. A man-made construct that the rough waves of the open water of the Atlantic pays no respect to.
And this beautiful piece, in its hues of pale blues and greys, sets the tone for the rest of the works on display – that under the skin of our bodies, and beneath the superficial infrastructure of our daily routines, we are all the same. And our lives are all the same – from the paper we use to write on, from the computers we use to communicate, to the airports we fly from, and on to the sun light we share.
We are all in this together.
And it’s the clever erasure of context in Wolfgang’s works that gets this message across: a photo of blood from an unidentified person flows through plastic tubes, a smashed up old PC, a billboard poster for a Calvin Klein perfume, the morning sun filtering through the windows of an unmarked unidentifiable building, wooden desks with plain sheets of paper… These all look familiar, and they would all be familiar to any of us.
But amongst these images and works that reflect the homogeneity of our lives, there are also some pretty wry observations of our prejudices and ‘othering’. I particularly liked Wolfgang’s photos of security checks at the airport, such as the sequence of the routine of the security checks – bags through the scanner, belts off, heeled shoes off, phone and keys out of the jeans…
And I especially liked the shots of the black Customs Officer checking the white visitor’s immigration status. And the Arab security guard performing the security checks. A sharp edge to an emotive display.
Maureen Paley, 21 Herald Street, London E2 to July 31, 2016
All photos by me.