Sips at the Real

“The reliance on secondary sources sets these images at one remove, an impression that is heightened by the graceful formal properties of Tuymans’ distinctive style. In stark contrast to the heavily layered style of other European painters to have emerged in the post-war period, such as Georg Baselitz, Anselm Kiefer or the squeegee paintings of Gerhard Richter, his brushstrokes are delicate, light, transient. His canvases seem to linger on the point of fading into non-existence, as if slipping from recall, and often give the impression of a screen having been inserted between the image and its witness, conclusively separating us from it. The complexity of these paintings, their embrace of ambiguity and detachment, is at odds with the prevailing shift towards the iconic, the graphic and the sensational in contemporary image production, and is among the reasons that Tuymans is revered by his peers.” [Ben Eastham on Luc Tuymans]
“The pictures are intended to operate in the mind above all: to come back when they’re no longer visible. It’s the representation of the invisible, the omitting that opens deeper layers of significance. No work of art should have a clear-cut meaning, it must have many, and that’s why you have to bring in this area of void.” [Ende – Udo Kittelmann in conversation with Luc Tuymans]

“Comics provide figurative painters with a reservoir of raw materials of a very special kind. These reserved materials can be integrated as vivifying elements in the various successions of the “evolution of the classical image”. It is material that has not been worn out, that is innocent and above all that speaks to the child inside the painter, and keeps that child alive.
The unconscious is a never-ending source of imageries that seem to just be waiting to reveal themselves in my paintings. It’s an area where things are still all jumbled together and don´t have specific intentions, material that the painter is allowed to configure at will.
When I paint, I don´t think, and instead I surrender myself completely to my feelings and to what the canvas demands of me. To me, this means bringing order, not to a mental space, but to the space of the unconscious. As a painter, I try to systematize the irrational, and to do that in painting after painting. This process is not easily reconciled with communication as it is most commonly understood.” [Neo Rauch in conversation with Elena Cué]

Unlike Neo Rauch, who stages scenes of semantic overkill with his overpopulated pictures, Tuymans draws up the very opposite with pale colors, empty space, and removal. Whereas with Rauch it is overabundance, with Tuymans it is meaningful emptiness that sets the hermeneutic machine in motion. A formidable posse has already been summoned in the explanation of Tuymans’s paintings: Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, W. G. Sebald, Benedict de Spinoza, Sigmund Freud, Immanuel Kant, Jacques Lacan, Theodore W. Adorno, Jacques Derrida, Jorge Luis Borges, Charles S. Peirce, and many others. Berg writes, “Tuymans derives the material for his painting from a repository of images that refer to reality but no longer stand directly in contact with it.” This is quite an exact description of the reservoir from which this painting is nourished. It sips at the real, at the atrocity of the gas chamber and the banality of evil, while at the same time managing to remain in the preserve of autonomous art. [Peter Geimer on Luc Tuymans]

“Rauch’s cast of dimly characterized figures in this new series of paintings includes soldiers, village festival goers, workers, shopkeepers, students, businessmen, craftsmen, matrons, politicians, professors, and fools—in short, almost every category of citizen to make up a potential working social order. All of the elements are there, but the artist scrambles them in a virtual anarchy of figural gestures displacing the suspension of political belief needed to coalesce such an order. One is left wandering in these paintings, navigating the lack of clear narrative between heraldic slugs, somnambulant boatmen, sickbed protagonists, hunched crones and hulking giants, sportive clerics, thoughtful sculptresses, and scarlet maids born of flayed fish. These characters all collide in scenarios underscored by the detached assumptions of shared dogma central to medieval morality and passion plays, rather than a more modern, Shakespearean pathos that might lead one to actually identify with some of the enacted scenes. The lack of any given belief in the artist’s peculiar, post-post-modern metaphysic allows for surrealistic free association while keeping his absurd scenarios uncannily generic.” [Tom McGlynn on Neo Rauch]

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