The Work of Luc Tuymans

Belgian artist Luc Tuymans paints emotive subjects in muted colours as a detached observer removed by two degrees as he paints from photographs and film stills.  Reflecting an uncomfortable aspect of human nature, Tuymans depicts sensitive subjects in the same way we filter issues through mass media, affected by trauma and temporarily moved then entirely separated from the reality of the event.  Like ghosts or fading memories, his paintings are abstractions of reality rather than direct accounts or simple narratives and have the eerie quality of faded photographs or burned film reels.  The quietness and subtlety of his work contrasts beautifully with the sharp provocativeness of his subject matter.  Having tackled a diverse range of topics, Tuymans work is striking in it’s starkness and haunting in its frankness.  He has examined the events and imagery of 9/11 and the Holocaust,  the nature of the corporation, the fanciful fakery of Disney’s empire and the colonial history of his own country.  He translates dry flashing imagery of today’s mass media into imaginative, figurative paintings that examine the nature of memory, association and history, making him one of today’s most influential and important artists.  Having studied fine art in Antwerp he abandoned painting to study the history of art then spent three years experimenting with film until 1985.  This diversion from traditional paths of art education plays a prominent role in his view of subject and his method of conceiving work.  His eye is drawn to illustrious subjects that shape the course of history and similarly to more modest objects like Christmas decorations and seemingly insignificant ornaments elevated to a symbolic status in his paintings.  He emerged from an environment with few imagistic painters among his contemporaries and drew inspiration from artists like El Greco.  His elegant brushstrokes apply wet paint on top of wet paint and depict blurred images with strange precision and areas of sharp delineation.  The pleasure in the painting process itself is evident when you notice that often one of Tuymans’ painting can give rise to a series- each work the basis and source of the next piece like visual Chinese whispers.  Tuymans is a rare beast in that his work is subtle and complex, provocative and playful, painterly and original all with out the jarring attempts to shock or the abrasive gimmickry of others who attempt similar themes.  Every mark is deliberate and an attempt to focus his audience on the meaning of the art rather than its aesthetics.  Tuymans describes our tendency to focus on transgressions rather than issues.

luc tuymans luc tuymans2 luc tuymans3 luc tuymans4 luc tuymans5 luc tuymans6 luc tuymans7 luc tuymans8 luc tuymans9 luc tuymans10 luc tuymans11 luc tuymans13 luc tuymans14 LUC TUYMANS Lumumba 2000  62 x 46cm oil on canvas LUC TUYMANS Leopard 2000 142 x 129cm oil on canvas

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