‘Returning’ Memories Through Painting

‘Returning’ Memories Through Painting

We have no hesitation in saying that the Belgian artist Luc Tuymans (b. 1958 Mortsel) is one of the centerpieces of painting today – maybe we would say one of the few ones left –, able to carve out a place of honor in the contemporary art world even if using a ‘traditional’ and for many old-fashioned media. Perhaps in a time of spectacular, huge or site-specific installations where the watchword seems to be more than ever amazing and capturing attention at once, being shaken by a canvas and feeling controversial emotions while looking at it may sound very strange. But it still can happen, and it happened to us with Tuymans’ narrations.

Mr. Tuymans looks like a man with a sterling character, and when observing his works, the first thing that comes to one’s mind is that he is not a joyful and merely visual artist. Going a bit more into his painterly world, this approach leaps out at you, plumbing the diverse and significant historical topics chosen by the artist during is career: the Holocaust, returned through the representation of a gas chamber or the Nazi entourages; the post-9/11 period, which includes the TV-sized close-up of Condoleezza Rice, The Secretary of State; the Belgium’s colonial history and its relationship with Africa that lead to his unmistakable portrait of Patrice Lumumba; the religion iconography, or the puzzling Disney Eden, which mixes up an outward innocence and a weird, somehow terrifying implication. Power in its different forms and manifestation, often stripped of cultural superstructures, plays a key role in Tuymans’ works, which reveal their complexity along with their intimacy and vulnerability though exercising a symptomatic view.

Once again, the theme of accessing the world through the lens of a camera comes back. Using photography and film/television/internet stills as memory traces and starting points, Luc Tuymans tells blurred, fragmented histories that have to be reconstructed through clues depicted with a palette of unsaturated and delicate colours and thin, mainly horizontal brushstrokes. There is no will of drawing inferences, rather creating observations of observations of the reality.

If you want to know more about the Belgian Artist, a new series of works is currently on view at David Zwirner Gallery that inaugurated its first European location in London with the show entitled Allo! at the beginning of October. The exhibition – presenting a suite of new paintings characterized by atypical bright chromatism, dark backgrounds and an exotic atmosphere inspired by the final scene of the movie The Moon and Sixpence – will run until November 17th.

Monica Lombardi – Many thanks to David Zwirner Gallery