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.