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 Amsterdam, and working as a bouncer in Brussels, Tuymans became a full-time painter in the early 1990s. In 1994, he was one of the first artists picked up by the burgeoning David Zwirner gallery–both the gallery and the artist have since become international art world phenomena.
Tuymans' paintings are marked by quiet, restrained tones which seem to suggest they come from a place beyond reality. Tackling weighty themes such as the Holocaust, 9/11, the colonial history of his native Belgium, and market capitalism, Tuymans paints from photographs culled from newspapers, magazines, and his personal archive. As a result, they exist somewhere between the real and the copy: they are memories from secondary sources, bearing witness to retelling.
For his exhibition Le Mépris (5 May - 25 June), at David Zwirner in New York, Tuymans approached the general theme of 'contempt' with two series of paintings. The first depicts the Zundert Flower Parade, a yearly event in the afore named Dutch town where his mother was born. It consists of works such as Corso II (2015), which is based on a photograph Tuyman's father took of a float in the parade in 1958, the year the artist was born, and which is rendered in pale shades of primary colors. The second series features the polluted waters of the canals of Ridderkerk, a town in the western Netherlands. The colours are more sub fusc here: including jaundiced greens and yellows in works like Murky Water I (2015), used to depict garbage floating on the surface of the canals.
In this Ocula Conversation, Tuymans discusses his latest show, his process, politics, sense of ennui and feelings on the current state of the art world.