Stephen Willats

Democratic Mosaics and Conceptual Towers
January 19 until March 8, 2008

On Friday, January 18, 2008, Galerie Thomas Schulte opens an exhibition showing drawings by the English conceptualist Stephen Willats. This is the first exhibition focusing exclusively on Willats’ drawings in over twenty-five years and the first presentation of this aspect of his work in Germany. It shows works the artist has made since 1983. The opening reception will be held from 7 to 9pm: the artist will be present.

Stephen Willats, born in 1943, is one of the most important and influential English artists of his generation, and repeatedly serves as a point of reference for the most current and contemporary directions in art. In the 1960s and early 1970s, he was one of the few serious proponents of international conceptual art in England. Many books and exhibitions have focused on his work which today can be found in many European museums. Willats’ techniques include drawing, photographic documentation, and computer-driven communication devices and animation.

Since the mid-1960s, Willats has been interested in the issue of individual value systems and social communication and the possibility of making these transparent using artistic means. He raises the question of the personal values of the individual in society and how the individual experiences his or her personal life space, defining it and making it livable. His works are concerned with life realities as interactive and self-organizing systems and their impact on identity and the life plans of the people within it. How do people communicate under these constraints and with the limitations placed on them by their particular social situation? How do they find consensus despite different value systems, parameters, and life perspectives?

Since 1962, Willats has developed in this context a specific and unique diagrammatic style of drawing. His drawings promote artistic parallel activity and a form of concentrated but informal expression of ideas. In his Democratic Grids, he depicts social models as window-like views from an endlessly large structure, while the drawings of his Ideological Towers series play with the abstraction of architecture and modernistic everyday objects as emblems of social and individual self-identification.