Guy Tillim »
Exhibition: – 3 Jun 2012
Fri 2 Mar 17:00
1016 EK Amsterdam
Guy Tillim/Second Nature
2 March - 3 June 2012
Intriguing new work from one of South Africa’s most celebrated photographers
Photographic images that challenge our perception of landscape
‘Art that is both beautiful and thoughtful… Guy Tillim achieves both’
– Mail and Guardian Online
The photographs that Guy Tillim made last year in French Polynesia and São Paulo bring these locations into sharp focus but are devoid of specific emphasis. The weather conditions on a misty Tahiti volcanic beach are depicted in extraordinary, almost palpable detail, but the image shows no traces of the usual idiom for depicting a tropical idyll. After all, this island exists in the Western imagination in terms of its remote, exotic location, dazzling beaches, azure waters, and dusky naked beauties. Guy Tillim, however, gives a new context to this landscape.
The fact that so many artists have tried to depict the Polynesian landscape, ever since Captain James Cook’s voyages of the late eighteenth century, was exactly what attracted Tillim. But Tillim follows no footsteps, and he avoids every cliché. He seeks, rather, to record his own perceptions – an almost impossible task: ”In making photographs of the landscape, I have to confront the difficulty of actually seeing the landscape.” Is it even possible to sidestep the idiom that has formed one’s own imagination? Tillim does so by framing not details or monumentality, but the space between them, a space whose everyday nature is revealed. Within his chosen frame there is a perfect democracy. “What is photographed?” writes Tillim. “Nothing, and everything, when you have no desire to leave the frame.”
As a modernistic counterpoint to his photographs of Polynesia, in late 2011 Guy Tillim travelled to São Paulo – a city that has also been much extolled, filmed, and described, and which is the subject of numerous poems. Here, too, Tillim has sought a new way of photographing a city of which it has been said that ‘its total absence of personality has become its personality.’ Guy Tillim approaches this metropolitan landscape in the same way he approaches Polynesian nature: “I show a sort of indeterminate area. The things that we don’t notice, as they are quotidian things. They contribute as much to the landscape as the other things.”
It is his unique photographic approach, which constantly depicts his subjects anew, that allows Guy Tillim to push back the borders of our own perceptions.
Guy Tillim was born in Johannesburg in 1962. He started taking photographs in the mid-1980s, after completing a degree in commerce at the University of Cape Town, because he literally “wanted to see what happened in my own country.” Between 1986 and 1990 he was a member of the collective Afrapix which photographed the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. Over the last thirty years, while documenting the aftermath of wars and conflicts in countries such as Angola, Congo, Eritrea, Mozambique and Sierra Leone, he became increasingly interested in the medium of photography and the power of the image itself, and his work began to be shown in galleries.
Tillim’s first book Departure (2003) showed a variety of photographs with a shared undertone of introspection, astonishment and disquiet. Since then he has published themed books – including Jo’burg (2005) on the new black tenants of dilapidated high-rise apartments in what was once an expensive neighbourhood; Petros Village (2006) on an African village in times of drought; and Avenue Patrice Lumumba (2008), which according to Tillim is “a walk through the nationalistic dreams of [Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister], Patrice Lumumba.” The subsequent project Rome, Città di mezzo (2009) introduced the landscape theme that he would further elaborate in Second Nature (2012).
Guy Tillim has received numerous awards, including the DaimlerChrysler Award for South African photography in 2004, the Leica Oskar Barnack Award in 2005 and the first Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum in 2006. His work was displayed at Documenta 12 in 2007 and at the São Paulo Biennale of 2006.
The exhibition Second Nature will be opened between 5pm and 7pm on 2 March 2012 by Bert Sliggers, curator of Teylers Museum in Haarlem, who sailed a clipper, the Amsterdam, to Polynesia, in the wake of Darwin’s Beagle.
Guy Tillim will be present at the opening of Second Nature in Huis Marseille. On Saturday 3 March he will give a guided tour of the exhibition, together with Federica Angelucci, co-owner of the STEVENSON gallery in Cape Town. Please book early!
International interest in South African photography has been growing in recent decades, as was clear at the most recent edition of Paris Photo. The Huis Marseille collection includes a great deal of South African photography, and in 2013, in collaboration with master photographer David Goldblatt, Huis Marseille plans to mount a large exhibition of contemporary South African photographers working after 1994, the post-apartheid period. It will include photographs by David Goldblatt himself, Zanele Muholi, Mikhael Subotzky, Jo Ractliffe, Guy Tillim and Pieter Hugo, a.o. At the same time as Guy Tillim’s work is on view at Huis Marseille, a large retrospective of Pieter Hugo’s work will be on show at FOTOMUSEUM DEN HAAG.
The exhibition will also mark the publication of a book, Second Nature, with texts by Els Barents and Guy Tillim (Prestel, about €50). There is a 20% discount when this is purchased together with Pieter Hugo – Selected Works (also by Prestel, about €50), with accompanying texts by T.J. Demos and Aaron Schuman.
This exhibition was organised by Huis Marseille in close collaboration with the STEVENSON gallery in Cape Town.