Luc Tuymans - Graphic works 1989-2012
The impressive oeuvre of Belgian artist Luc Tuymans (b. 1958) may seem to centre mainly around painting, but this first ever retrospective of his graphic work reveals another aspect of his work that is at least equally important. In his graphic work, Tuymans makes use of countless pre-existing images and photographs. He is an investigative artist. The collection of visual materials leads to the production of graphic work, and this can eventually give rise to a painting. Since Tuymans paints just one day a week, he has to get his paintings right first time. His graphic work is therefore the arena in which he experiments. It is not unusual for him to gather a number of graphic works together to form an installation, as in his 2002-2003 work The Rumour. This work has recently been presented to the Gemeentemuseum by its Association of Friends to mark the occasion of the present exhibition and accompanying catalogue raisonné (Luc Tuymans – Graphic Works 1989-2012). The array of graphic works in the exhibition is supplemented by a selection of ten paintings that form a cross-section of Tuymans’ oeuvre to date.
The content of Tuyman’s work is rich and varied: it includes landscapes, interiors, portraits and even almost abstract forms. However, despite its wide-ranging nature, the work displays a number of basic themes: historical events that have had a major impact on human action and thought, such as the two world wars, Belgian colonialism, and 9/11. Tuymans’ works analyse both the event and the human response to it. His distinctive palette, limited to soft pastel shades with a frequent brown or grey undertone, imbues the paintings with a sense of detachment that seems inevitable for this artist.
The exhibition Luc Tuymans – Graphic Works 1989-2012 will include the Gemeentemuseum’s new acquisition, The Rumour, on show to the public for the first time. The installation is composed of a suite of seven lithographs and a birdcage. It is inspired by a childhood trip to England with his parents, when Tuymans visited stately homes and learned about the life of the British aristocracy. In his installation, he shows the aristocrat himself and the pigeons as playthings of the rich (to be eaten and provide sport), but also as winged vermin. A number of close-ups of pigeons’ eyes betray once again the investigative nature of Tuymans’ work.
Tuymans was born in Mortsel (Belgium). He trained in Brussels and now lives and works in Antwerp. However, his mother was born in The Hague and this exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag is a kind of home-coming for the artist, who used to visit the museum as a child and became familiar with its Mondrian collection at that time. El Greco’s paintings have been another major influence but he also owes much to his Belgian roots and feels a sense of kinship with Belgian artists like James Ensor. Tuymans is regarded as one of the most important figures in contemporary art anywhere in the world. He has taken part in Documenta (Kassel) several times and represented Belgium at the 2003 Venice Biennale. His work features in the collections of major museums such as MoMA in New York, Tate Modern in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
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