Selected works by Luc Tuymans

Luc Tuymans
Still Life

2002

Oil on Canvas

347 x 500cm
Exposing the gap between represented image and historical event, Luc Tuymans’s paintings delve into the inner workings of how mythology is created. The reality of Luc Tuymans’s work is almost ’twee’, pleasing images of a lampshade or leopard-skin rug pass quite comfortably as aesthetic totems; it’s only their cognitive association with the Holocaust, or atrocities of the Belgian Congo, that encapsulates the true banality of evil - the unspeakable horror in a teacup, the monstrous potential of an empty bath. Luc Tuymans’s paintings consciously fall desperately short of the iconic, becoming vestiges posed as counterfeit emblems for that which cannot be conveyed.

Still Life is a monument to this inadequacy of language. Made initially for the 2002 Documenta, Luc Tuymans was expected to present paintings of images relating to 9/11 to coincide with the exhibition’s theme of political and social engagement. What he decided to show was a giant still life. The sheer scale makes the contemplation of this painting almost impossible: a vast canvas representing an absolute nothingness. Luc Tuymans chose the subject of still life precisely because it was utterly unremarkable; a generic ’brand’ of ’object’ rendered to immense scale; it is banality expanded to the extreme. The simplicity of Luc Tuymans’s composition alludes to a pure and uninterrupted world order; the ephemeral light, with which the canvas seems to glow, places it as an epic masterpiece of metaphysical and spiritual contemplation. In response to unimaginable horror, Luc Tuymans offers the sublime. A gaping magnitude of impotency, which neither words nor paintings could ever express.
Luc Tuymans
Maypole

2000

Oil on Canvas

224 x 116cm
If media images inadequately depict the horrors of reality, then Luc Tuymans’s paintings are even more disturbingly detached. Often taking his imagery from published photos (of war, violence, subjugation), the paintings are the antithesis of this historic iconography: dull tones, vague, nondescript scenes, stripped of emotional propaganda.

Maypole suggests only the mistiest remnants of a memory: men in lederhosen raising a mast (Cross?), with flags waving in the distance, they could be scouts, pioneers, morris dancers or Hitler Youth. Though it’s painted with the faded language of nostalgia, Maypole is strangely empty: void of sympathy or moral, Luc Tuymans renders a scene twice-removed, making it impulsively human. Without context of history or source, the viewer is left to engage with the painting on a purely instinctive level; being drawn into the evils of history, he adopts his own role as a silent and willing observer.
Luc Tuymans
Within

2001

Oil on Canvas

223 x 243cm
Luc Tuymans paints the indescribable. His dark muted scenes seem vaguely familiar, distant, like haunting memories. Drawing his inspiration from grand themes, Luc Tuymans taps into a universal social guilt: from the Holocaust, or imperialism, to child abuse. By minimalising his images, he creates a raw emotion through paint; each painting linking spiritually, somehow instinctively, to the rest.

Within is a tranquil vermin metaphor for contamination and disease. A close-up detail of a birdcage, this painting more than conveys feelings of hopelessness and isolation: through its sheer size and potency, it literally traps the viewer, swallowing him into a prison of collective consciousness.
Luc Tuymans
Pigeons

2001

Oil on Canvas

128 x 156cm
Luc Tuymans’s pigeons bop in dumb disarray. Dirty and disease-ridden, they’re a strangely curious mob, a metaphoric stand-in for ourselves. Painted in the muted tones of history, Luc Tuymans offers a chilling ultimate truth about humankind. He makes a cold comedy of a terrifying thought.
Luc Tuymans
Portrait

2000

Oil on Canvas

57 x 30cm
Ritual and tradition play a large part in Luc Tuymans’s work, drawing on the solace in repetition, the blind faith of unquestioned custom. Taken from a funerary tribute photo, the type of memento circulated to grieving loved ones in Luc Tuymans’s native Belgium, Portrait is an image of both commemoration and inconsequence. The woman’s melancholic expression and sickly pallor serve less as a reminder of a vibrant life, than a lingering forbearance of death; her cherished memory a mere ghost - faded and shrinking, as if she never was. Only her black dress and glasses remain, sinister and anonymous props, lonely relics without sentiment or intimacy.

Other Resources

artfacts.net
Additional information on Luc Tuymans

postmedia.net
"The little space between the explanation of the picture and the picture itself affords the only possible perspective on painting."
Luc Tuymans

the-artists.org
More information on Luc Tuymans

cmoa.org
Luc Tuymans's cycle The Passion

anu.edu.au
Art and Human Rights: Witnessing to Silence Luc Tuymans

ntu.ac.uk
In talking about the specificities of what makes painting important I can be very brief: painting is very specific and very precise.

bbc.co.uk/radio3
John Tusa continues his series of conversations with some of the world's greatest artistic originators. This evening he meets the artist Luc Tuymans.

postmedia.net"The little space between the explanation of the picture and the picture itself affords the only possible perspective on painting."
Luc Tuymans

eyestorm.comStrongly influenced by other media, such as film and photography, Luc Tuymans' paintings exist as confrontation with, rather than an escape from, the oppressiveness and violence of life.

ivarhagendoorn.comKunstsammlung Nordrheinwestfalen, Dsseldorf (until 16 January 2005)

extracity.org
Tuymans' career takes a start in the 1980's with small paintings/ Tuymans' carrire neemt een aanvang in de jaren 1980 met kleine schilderijen.

omkonst.com
Helsingfors Konsthall presenterar just nu en retrospektiv utstllning med den belgiske malaren Luc Tuymans.

skenet.fi
Belgialaisen Luc Tuymansin (s. 1958) tuotanto on kysytty maailman taidefoorumeilla.