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.
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
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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.
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.
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.
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’