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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Luc Tuymans

b. 1958, Belgium

Belgian artist Luc Tuymans is regarded as one of the most influential painters working today. Tuymans' portraits, still lifes and other painted scenes are largely concerned with the inconsistencies between traumatic events and the images that come to represent them. Characterised by their washed-out and muted tones, the nostalgic, melancholy and banal qualities of his paintings often conceal violent themes. Notably, he is credited with contributing to the revival of representational painting in the 1990s at a point where many doubted the relevance of the genre.

In his 1986 painting Gas Chamber—based off a watercolour sketch he made on-site in the Dachau concentration camp in Germany—sparse brushstrokes roughly depict the interior of an empty gas chamber. The airless, pale yellow-pink tones used to render the space suggest the image is an aged relic of a brutal episode that has been relegated to history books, while the somewhat distorted perspective and understated palette imply the artist's cool detachment and aversion to emotional spectacle. Similarly, for his series of paintings titled 'Mwana Kitoko—Beautiful White Man'— presented at the Belgium Pavilion of the 2001 Venice Biennale—Tuymans took Belgium's colonial presence in Africa as a point of departure. One painting in the series, Mwana Kitoko (2000), depicts the then-24-year-old Belgian King arriving in the Congo for a procession in 1955; his jacket is covered in medals, but his awkward posture belies discomfort and unease. Tsjombe (2000), on the other hand, shows a group of African men talking at a table, rendered in muted colours. While retaining Tuymans' characteristic aesthetic restraint, the paintings in the series quietly point at systemic imbalances of power.

Tuymans is acutely aware of the insufficiency of images to convey trauma. Created for documenta11 (2002), the painting Still Life (2002) was Tuymans' defiant counter to the expectation that his work for the exhibition would respond to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. To counter the saturation of horrific images in the media, Tuymans turned towards the idyllic and painted a pale still life of fruit, magnified to a monumental scale. To him, images and language were inadequate to represent the recent horrors. In the enormous, banal painting that resisted interpretation, Tuymans provided quiet space for contemplation.

Tuymans' interest in lens-based images is long-standing. After he studied art in the 1970s, he worked for a time as a filmmaker before returning to painting in the 1980s. Cinematic elements—remnants of that brief interlude—are still evident in his works, which use camera-imitative techniques such as cropping and enlargement. His 2005 painting The Secretary of State is a tight close-up image of Condoleezza Rice, who had that year become the United States secretary of state; her brow is furrowed as if focused or concerned. Tuymans was inspired to paint the image after hearing a politician make a sexist comment about Rice; he selected the reference image from a fan website, having been drawn to that particular photograph due to the determination in her expression.

Themes of impending decay also make their way into Tuymans' works. In his 2016 exhibition Le Mépris at David Zwirner in New York, the artist presented several paintings based on photographs of floats, murky water and the interior of a famous Capri villa. Depicting festivities and their aftermath, devoid of human presence, Tuymans hints at an imminent premonition that he shows contempt for—a sentiment that he holds for 'everything' in general, as relayed in his 2016 conversation with Ocula Magazine. 'In paintings,' he said, 'painted time is something different than real time. You could say there is an element of melancholy, of nostalgia, but it's kind of twisted in a way. There's an element of aggression. So, it's torture.'

Tuymans was awarded three honorary doctorates between 2006 and 2015. Since 1985, he has exhibited in over 100 solo and more than 500 group exhibitions, and his work has been collected by over 40 museums and public institutions worldwide, including The Museum of Modern Art and Solomon R Guggenheim Museum in New York, Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris. Since 1999, he has been curating exhibitions and participating in special projects, and in 2001 he represented Belgium at the 49th Venice Biennale.

Tuymans lives and works in Antwerp.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

The Kid by Luc Tuymans contemporary artwork Luc TuymansThe Kid, 2018 Oil on canvas
139.2 x 101.4 cm
Zeno X Gallery
The Return by Luc Tuymans contemporary artwork Luc TuymansThe Return, 2018 Oil on canvas
228.1 x 166 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Niger by Luc Tuymans contemporary artwork Luc TuymansNiger, 2017 Oil on canvas
180.7 x 236 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Hand by Luc Tuymans contemporary artwork Luc TuymansHand, 1998 Oil on canvas
50.5 x 42 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Untitled by Luc Tuymans contemporary artwork Luc TuymansUntitled, 2017 Graphite on paper
Zeno X Gallery
Ceiling by Luc Tuymans contemporary artwork Luc TuymansCeiling, 1989-1993 Oil on canvas,
30 x 50 cm
Simon Lee Gallery

Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, Group Show at Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
23 January–23 February 2019 Group Show Group Show Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, four times sixty - anniversary exhibition at Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
19 September–13 October 2018 Group Exhibition four times sixty - anniversary exhibition Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art at David Zwirner, New York
12 September–27 October 2018 Group Exhibition Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art David Zwirner, 20th Street, New York

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Luc Tuymans Ocula Conversation Luc Tuymans Artist, Belgium

With over 120 solo shows, and 600 group shows on his curriculum vitae, Luc Tuymans is credited by critics such as Peter Schjeldahl with having contributed to the revival of painting, which misguided critics have been eulogising since 1839, when the French painter Paul Delaroche declared it dead. After studying art history at Vrije Universiteit...

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In Related Press

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Heads Roll review – an exhibition for narcissists everywhere Related Press Heads Roll review – an exhibition for narcissists everywhere The Guardian : 13 August 2018

Portraiture is an enduring art form, thanks to the narcissistic tendencies of the human race.

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Jakarta Biennale: A new understanding of contemporary Indonesian art Related Press Jakarta Biennale: A new understanding of contemporary Indonesian art The Jakarta Post : 2 November 2017

This year's Jakarta Biennale will diverge from many of the curatorial practices of its predecessors.The Jakarta Biennale, which is set to open on Saturday at Gudang Sarinah Ekosistem in South Jakarta, will this year adopt Jiwa as its artistic concept.Jiwa is a concept that is almost impossible to translate into English, but for this biennale, it...

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Luc Tuymans Related Press Luc Tuymans RanDian : 13 February 2017

In an age in which he feels artists have become exceedingly demo¬cratic, Luc Tuymans adheres closely to the method he has honed over time—mercifully without, he says, a moment of 'painter's block.' Now fifty-eight, Tuymans had his first solo exhibition in his native Belgium when he was twenty-seven. His commitment to painting is sometimes...

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Luc Tuymans: Artist Related Press Luc Tuymans: Artist Cofeeklatch : 11 September 2016

Tuymans is one of the most influential artists of his generation. In the nineties, he contributed to the revival of painting. With a minimal dash of paint, he tackles a broad range of topics and explores the boundary between representation and reality. We met in his atelier in Antwerp.

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