Interview with Luc Tuymans by Steele Stillman
Born in 1958 in Mersel, Belgium, Luc Tuymans is known as one of the most important painters of his generation. He spent more than 30 years working and living near the city of Antwerp. In general, Tuymans’s biography reflects his personal view of what was once called Western civilization. He is an artist who began working in his own backyard with the psychological effects left over from World War II and gradually shifted his focus from a great fear of domestic noir, to political, religious, entertainment and war entanglement. Certainty is evolving today in virtual reality. Tuymans’s work is European in tone – not just history, but the rules of enduring painting – and evokes a precise state of painting that is visually seductive as well as intellectually deceptive. This effect is literally relevant to us.
Luc Tuymans first attracted attention in Belgium and Germany in the late 1980s. Since then he has had dozens of solo exhibitions in galleries and museums – and countless group exhibitions – around the world, most notably at the 2001 Venice Biennale, where his play “Moana Kitoko” was staged in the Belgian pavilion. His recent American revision was led by Madeleine Grynsztejn and Helen Molesworth, which is surprisingly his first revision. The works were exhibited at the Wexner Center for the Arts last fall and opened at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco on February 6, before traveling to Dallas, Chicago and Brussels.
Steele Stillman: Since the mid-1980s, you have committed to keeping your plays firmly rooted in the thematic concepts of organization and oversight. This time you handed over the reins to two art historians. How is their approach different from what you have done in the past?
Luc Tuymans: Madeleine and Helen decided to show the work in chronological order. It may seem like an obvious choice, but it has never been made. They preferred to reconstruct three complete exhibitions – “Accident” (1994), “Architect” (1998) and “Moana Kitoku” (2000) – in addition to a large part of the exhibition “Air conditioning” (2015). These plays formed a thematic framework from which a selection of other collections of paintings can be seen. The beauty of this approach to art history is that you can trace the changes in my painting style as well as the gap in the early 1980s; When I stopped painting for three or four years to make a film.
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Stillman: The first painting in Hands (1978) is a vague portrait of a man.
Tuymans: My idea was to cover the image to destroy the visualization of the face. Years later, in 1997, I returned to this approach in Painting the Architect, in which the face of the skier, who happens to be Albert Speer, is covered again. I have only kept a few of my old paintings. Most of them perished because they seemed too realistic – I had trouble distancing myself enough from the simulation. After “Hands”, the exhibition was upgraded to correspondence, which was the first painting after an adventure in filmmaking. It was based on a true story of a writer who lived in another city and sent postcards to his wife every day from the restaurant where he ate every day. This is an important task; Because I started making paintings from back to front with it; I started from the background and worked with transparency towards the viewer, which in this case used a medieval background design in particular.
Stillman: What stopped you from painting and made you a filmmaker?
Tuymans: It was just a feeling that my paintings were not going to get anywhere and that they were going to be very confined. I had to let go of the previous ways and find another way to achieve it. At first I was not sure I would paint again because filmmaking had taken up all my time; But I continued to draw and paint with watercolors, and in the end I slowly returned to painting; Because the cost of filmmaking was unbearable.
Tuymans: I started making a memoir with a friend of the actor who had a camera. We filmed almost every day. It was very obsessive; We filmed everything without text, text, or other structure.
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Stillman: There’s a bedrock quality to this painting – paintings that weren’t ready to be shown yet – have you ever turned to filmmaking to do something new?
Luc Tuymans: Unconsciously Yes Until recently, I had not seen this work before it was completed, and I called it a childish mistake. T. In our public interview at Wexner, Jay Clark said he was fascinated by Peugeot, my first film work. And you are right; There seem to be signs of imagination being painted one day. Looking back now, all my efforts seem more logical.
Stillman: One of your most important paintings from the mid-1980s is The Gas Room (1986).
Tuymans: The gas chamber painting was a representative of all the designs of the past years; I drew that design while standing in the bathroom, to remind the space, and I did not think that one day it would turn into a painting; But I knew that none of the people there could tell their story. The paintings are actually copies of the designs that were in my studio and got their background color from the original yellowish paper color. This is one of my most conceptual works. Without a title you can not understand what the subject is; But remember the space itself is covered; What looks like a shower was not a shower at all.