Jeff Wall Untangling (1994)

Untangling (1994); (2006) {printed}

Jeff Wall is one of the most influential and outstanding photographers working today. He has frequently been described as a modern storyteller, and his work is shaped by a profound awareness of Western art and literature. Wall produced highly conceptual works in the early 1970s, but came to feel these were not an adequate means of expression. After time spent in Europe viewing large historical paintings by Goya, Manet and others, Wall desired to produce art with the grandeur and authority of these paintings, but with relevance for the contemporary world. When a bus he was travelling on passed a large backlit transparency (used for advertising), Wall recognised the artistic potential of this high-gloss, contemporary, seductive medium.

Untangling fuses the conventions of cinema with the authority of grand painting. This large backlit cibachrome transparency shows a complex and seemingly chaotic environment in which a huge knot of hemp rope lies across a garage floor. In the foreground a mechanic is shown seated on a pile of rubber tubing, contemplating the ropes as if beginning to untangle them. His troubled features contrast greatly with those of the younger man browsing motors at the rear of the shop.

*This work currently is not on display