Tilman's primary preoccupation has always been with light as a vehicle of transcendence. Light's divine properties are the classical ingredients of great art and architecture, a loaded subject for today's artist. Tilman is a modern painter and he deals with the subject of transcendent light in painting both soberly and uniquely.
Unlike most monochrome painters, Tilman uses color -- largely murky greens and yellows or soft oranges -- in the service of creating painted light (rather than strictly presenting color as color). The kind of painted light Tilman is reaching for does not come straight from the tube. I think Tilman is attempting to concoct a visible spiritual light from a personal admixture of chemical color. In a sense, the purity of a color, say Ultramarine Blue, is no longer sufficient, by itself, to create a situation where transcendence is possible. A reductivist approach to the spectrum could never guarantee isolating a particular transcendence in the manner that Tilman seems to require. Instead, Tilman has created vaguely colored spaces that resemble gaseous nebulae, cradling and releasing nascent light in disproportionate magnitude.
Each of Tilman's paintings is marked by thin criss-crossing lines and line segments over a washy, inflected mostly monochromatic field. Sometimes the color of the lines contrasts with the fields, and sometimes the lines are loosely painted in a shiny clear resin that reflects the light of the room and shifts the painting space, moving it as the viewer moves. The lines are strewn across the facing planes as if to repeat the natural placement of the lines of our hands, an association especially strong in Tilman's drawings. Most paintings in this show contained at least four lines that perpendicularly converged in the center, forming a bent-elbow armature of sorts, that lent each painting some spatial torsion, a sensible mechanical method of defying an otherwise languid color plane.
I consider Tilman's paintings successful in that the light he has created is more easily seen than described. He has thoughtfully constructed, in complicated fashion, paintings where the simple possibility of transcendence can occur. Why is it that this essential experience in life has been largely absent in contemporary art for so long? Like Tilman's paintings, I appreciate that the answer has become increasingly personal.
Tilman at Petra Bungert, 225 Lafayette Street, Suite 303, New York, N.Y. 10012