Wolfgang Tillmans: Roy, 2009
In Roy we see an infant sleeping in a carrying chair, secured backwards in the front passenger seat of a car to face out towards the viewer. In the rear-view mirror, we see the upper half of a woman’s face, the edge of the reflected image cutting horizontally across her features, so that her dark eyes – concentrating on the road ahead – are only half visible. Her eyebrows, forehead and centrally parted hair give the viewer a good indication of her age and appearance. Pale but bright sunlight is coming into the car, highlighting the collected dust and dried raindrops on the windscreen, and the dragged arc of smeared water left behind by the perishing rubber of the windscreen wipers.
In its undeniable modernity and sense of daily event, the image brings to mind Richard Hamilton’s painting Mother and Child, 1984–85, in which a smiling infant, dressed in white woollens, attempts awkward early steps towards the viewer, its hand held by the smiling mother. In this image, too, we can only see a fragment of the mother’s face, since it is cut across by the upper edge of the canvas. Her relationship with the child is defined by what we see of her jaw and smiling mouth, framed by her long brown hair hanging loosely to one side as she bends down to guide the stumbling child. The light within the scene – as in Roy – appears to be that of pale, bright early spring sunshine, suggesting new life.