Taking a look at Tate’s collection, we reimagine what ‘love’ can mean.

When many people think of the word ‘love’, they instinctively imagine the romance of fairytales; passionate, glamorous, uncomplicated love. The reality of it may look pretty different. The types of love we feel are as varied as the people who experience it, as is the art that explores this theme.

Abstract

Wolfgang Tillmans 'I don’t want to get over you' 2000
Wolfgang Tillmans
I don’t want to get over you 2000
© Wolfgang Tillmans, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

Winner of 2000’s Turner Prize, Wolfgang Tillmans, is known for his raw glimpses of youth culture and his abstract colour photography. I don’t want to get over you was titled after the 1999 track by The Magnetic Fields. Like this tune, the artless accessibility of Tillman’s work, with its light colours, and beautiful forms, is a kind of love song:

It’s an intuitive process… I need to kind of bond with the material that I’m using… over time I develop a sense of…  how to filter to get the color I want, or time the exposure exactly, or make a movement quick enough so that the paper doesn’t get too dark. So it is a very physical thing; and I love this sheet of paper itself, this lush, crisp thing.

American Suburb X

Obsessive

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  • Black and white photo taken from above of Asian woman looking sad carrying an armful of books.
    Masahisa Fukase
    From Window 1974
  • Masahisa Fukase, From Window 1974
    Masahisa Fukase
    From Window 1974
  • Black and white photo from above of Asian woman with her arms spread, facing up at the photographer
    Masahisa Fukase
    From Window 1974
  • Black and white photograph of Asian woman bending down and looking back up at the photographer above her.
    Masahisa Fukase
    From Window 1974
  • Black and white photograph of Asian woman dancing in the street with mouth wide open looking up at photographer in the window above.
    Masahisa Fukase
    From Window 1974

Masahisa Fukase’s series From Window 1974, is from his photobook Yohko; a thirteen year project consisting of photographs solely of his wife. Both enjoying, and suffocated by, his attention, Yohko pouts, smiles, spins or frowns as she leaves their home each day, while Fukase snaps from the window above. When Yohko left him in 1976, Fukase turned his attention to ravens with equal scrutiny and photographed this subject obsessively until he remarried. When Fukase entered a coma later on in his life, Yohko visited him regularly for the next twenty years. He would never awake again, yet she admitted ‘he remains part of my identity’ (The Guardian).

Simple

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, '"Untitled" (Double Portrait)' 1991
Felix Gonzalez-Torres
"Untitled" (Double Portrait) 1991
Offset print on paper (endless copies)
displayed: 260 x 1001 x 698 mm

For this piece, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, stacked one hundred sheets of paper, each with two circles printed in the centre. The work was originally placed on the floor in the gallery and viewers were invited to take away a page. The printed image is a simple representation of two people brought together by love. This ‘anti-monument’ which dwindles and is then replenished repeatedly, symbolises the feelings of loss and new love which people experience everyday.

Complicated

Ron Mueck, 'Spooning Couple' 2005
Ron Mueck
Spooning Couple 2005
Mixed media
plinth: 690 x 827 x 624 mm, 20 kg
displayed: 1165 x 1040 x 790 mm
ARTIST ROOMS
Acquired jointly with the National Galleries of Scotland through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008© Ron Mueck

 

Ron Mueck leaves no detail to the imagination when reproducing the human form, often playing with scale to distort our expectations. However, his work is not merely physical; the body language of his sculptures is supercharged with emotion. In Spooning Couple, Mueck immortalises that fatal breakdown of communication  between two people. The pairs’ awkward nakedness and vulnerability turns us into voyeurs of humanity’s most private state — unhappiness.

Ordinary

Chris Killip 'Couple eating fish and chips, Whitley Bay, Tyneside' 1976, printed 2010
Chris Killip
Couple eating fish and chips, Whitley Bay, Tyneside 1976, printed 2010
© Chris Killip
View this artwork in Art & Artist

Throughout the hardship of 1980’s Britain under Margaret Thatcher, Chris Killip’s work is a beacon of humanity. There is a strong political undercurrent to much of his imagery, as he documents a working class society surviving through the roughest of times. Yet, this is uplifted by photographs of total normality; regular people, doing regular tasks and enjoying each other’s company. He shows us that love is not always pretty, but can be beautifully ordinary.

Human

Rineke Dijkstra, 'Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994' 1994
Rineke Dijkstra
Julie, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 29 1994 1994
Photograph on paper
image: 1170 x 945 mm
Purchased 1998© Rineke Dijkstra

Wearing nothing but a giant pair of medical pants, Julie clutches her newborn baby and looks into the camera. Rineke Dijkstra’s photographs of women after giving birth are a profound, intimate documentation of love in its most primal form:

It’s amazing how they trust me, and I think that afterwards they understand that these photos are about something universal and that it’s not particularly about them…a lot of women came to me and said, you know it’s really great that you make these photographs because it’s really the way it is but nobody ever shows it, and I can recognise myself in it. And the men were all like, you can’t show a woman like that.

Cruel + Tender 2003. 

Perhaps Peggy Guggenheim sums it up better than we ever could: ‘It [is] all about art and love’ 

Standfirst: