Luc Tuymans: Eternity | David Zwirner
Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, dated 2022

Luc Tuymans: Eternity

David Zwirner is pleased to present Eternity, an exhibition of new paintings by Belgian artist Luc Tuymans on view at the gallery’s Paris location. Extending his decades-long interrogation of images, in these works Tuymans calls attention to the history of painting and the medium’s inherent emphasis on illusion as an analogue for the growing sociopolitical dissolution of Western society, heightening the disjuncture between seeing and knowing that has become a hallmark of his practice. This is his fifteenth show with the gallery and the first solo exhibition of the celebrated artist’s work in Paris.

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Image: Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, 2022

David Zwirner a le plaisir de présenter Eternity, une exposition de peintures inédites de Luc Tuymans dans les espaces de la galerie de Paris. L’artiste belge y présente ses travaux les plus récents, dans la continuité de sa longue exploration critique de la notion d’image : par rapport à l’histoire de la peinture en général, mais aussi vis-à-vis de l’un des enjeux inhérents au médium, l’illusion, analogie potentielle de l’idée d’une certaine déréliction sociopolitique touchant toujours plus les sociétés occidentales. Quinzième collaboration entre la galerie et l’artiste, Eternity est aussi sa première exposition personnelle à Paris et donc l’opportunité de mettre au jour le rapport ambigu et changeant entre « voir » et « savoir » qu’interroge sa pratique artistique depuis plusieurs décennies.

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“The idea with my imagery is that it has to work from afar, but once you get close to it, it disintegrates.… That’s what it’s all about.”

 
—Luc Tuymans, in conversation with Helen Molesworth, 2022

 

Luc Tuymans is known for a distinctive style of painting that considers the power of images to simultaneously communicate and withhold information. Based on preexisting imagery culled from a variety of sources, his works appear quiet and restrained, yet the subject matter carries an underlying moral complexity, often engaging with questions of history and its representation.

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Eternity, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Eternity, 2021
Oil on canvas
124 x 108 3/8 inches (314.9 x 275.4 cm)

Among the most vibrantly colored works in Tuymans’s oeuvre to date, the painting Eternity (2021) brings to mind the fields of color used by artists such as Mark Rothko or Kenneth Noland. However, the dome’s imperfect surface suggests a real-world referent, in this case the glass dome made by Werner Heisenberg to model hydrogen bomb explosions. A pioneering theoretical physicist, Heisenberg led the German effort to produce atomic weapons during World War II, though it remains unclear whether he helped or hindered this cause.

“Tuymans has painted horrors.… But his subject is not horror. It is the way in which such atrocities, as components of what we call ‘history,’ become inseparably woven into the new ‘universe of technical images.’”

 
—Jarrett Earnest, in exhibition catalogue for La Pelle: Luc Tuymans, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2019

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Stormy Planet, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Stormy Planet, 2021
Oil on canvas
43 5/8 x 49 inches (110.9 x 124.3 cm)

Further exemplifying the artist’s affinity for subject matter that seems ambiguous until read more closely, a group of four canvases with converging red and blue specks of paint brings to mind a wide range of references, such as fireworks or viruses. In fact, the patterns reproduce a visualization of data assembled by a team of researchers tracking the political polarization of the US Congress over six decades by looking at how likely representatives are to vote with their own party or to cross party lines.

Installation view of four oil on canvas paintings by Luc Tuymans, titled Polarisation I-IV - Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, at David Zwirner in New York, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Polarisation - Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, 2021
Oil on canvas
4 parts work
Part 1: 96 1/2 x 53 3/8 inches (245.2 x 135.5 cm)
Part 2: 96 5/8 x 57 1/2 inches (245.5 x 146 cm)
Part 3: 96 5/8 x 62 1/2 inches (245.3 x 158.8 cm)
Part 4: 96 5/8 x 61 inches (245.3 x 154.9 cm)

To create these paintings, Tuymans applied dots of paint to the canvas and then used his hands to spread out the pigment, resulting in hazy, sometimes overlapping clouds of color.

A detail of a painting by Luc Tuymans titled Polarisation - Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, dated 2021

Luc Tuymans, Polarisation - Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, 2021 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Polarisation - Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, 2021 (detail)

A painting by Luc Tuymans titled Polarisation - Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, dated 2021

Luc Tuymans, Polarisation- Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, 2021 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Polarisation- Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, 2021 (detail)

While the earlier canvases show Democrats (represented in blue) and Republicans (in red) connected by swaths of gray (denoting bipartisan collaboration), over time the gray areas disappear and the blue and red stand starkly apart, mirroring a now strictly partisan government.

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, dated 2022

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, 2022

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, 2022

“Tuymans is also supremely conscious that every exhibition involves the construction of a reality.… He is notable in the rigor with which he will choose to make or show a particular group of work at a given time, or in a given place.”

 
—Nicholas Serota, in exhibition catalogue for Luc Tuymans: Intolerance, Qatar Museums Gallery Al Riwaq, Doha, 2015

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled After, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

After, 2021
Oil on canvas
85 1/8 x 46 1/8 inches (216.3 x 117.2 cm)

Two paintings ground the exhibition specifically in France, the first of which depicts the title figure from Jean-François Millet’s Le semeur (The Sower). Though shocking to audiences when it debuted at the Paris Salon of 1850, Millet’s image was later co-opted by the French government to promote an idealized vision of the working class. Tuymans’s title, After, suggests a double meaning, acknowledging the source material as well as the passage of time.

Jean-François Millet, Le semeur (The Sower), 1850 (detail). Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Jean-François Millet, Le semeur (The Sower), 1850 (detail). Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Jean-François Millet, Le semeur (The Sower), 1850 (detail). Collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Fantomas, dated 2022.

Luc Tuymans

Fantomas, 2022
Oil on canvas
31 7/8 x 21 3/4 inches (81 x 55.2 cm)
An image of an archival image titled fantomas

Still frame of Jean Marais in Fantomas

Still frame of Jean Marais in Fantomas

The second work situated in French culture presents a closely cropped portrait of Fantômas, a fictional criminal genius from a popular series of French novels. Here, Tuymans focuses on the character’s signature blue mask and piercing stare, which debuted in the 1960s in film adaptations of the novels that Tuymans saw in his youth. While Fantômas was arguably the first mass-media representation of a terrorist in literature, the film transformed this figure into a comedic foil, essentially preceding today’s Marvel villains.

A detail of a painting by Luc Tuymans titled Fantomas, dated 2022

Luc Tuymans, Fantomas, 2022 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Fantomas, 2022 (detail)

“Tuymans never chooses perfect representation but rather takes a risk in painting. He says that a painting should always have a ‘hole,’ a defect, and viewers can enter this ‘gap’ in order to bring their own story and narrative to the painting. In this sense, his approach is more conceptual than expressive.”

 
—Caroline Bourgeois, in exhibition catalogue for La Pelle: Luc Tuymans, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, 2019

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Library, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Library, 2021
Oil on canvas
64 5/8 x 117 7/8 inches (164.2 x 299.5 cm)
Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, dated 2022

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, 2022

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, 2022

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled See, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

See, 2021
Oil on canvas
58 1/8 x 57 1/4 inches (147.7 x 145.3 cm)

Tuymans has included depictions of himself in his work only rarely, though always with a flat treatment similar to that of his work more generally. Here, the intimacy that we expect in the genre of self-portraiture is intentionally absent.

A detail of an archival self portrait image of the artist

Luc Tuymans, Me, 2011 (detail). Collection of The Broad, Los Angeles

Luc Tuymans, Me, 2011 (detail). Collection of The Broad, Los Angeles

Another self-portrait, Me (2011), was also based on a photo taken by Carla Arocha, the artist’s wife. Me is in the collection of The Broad, Los Angeles.

An oil on canvas painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Gloves, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Gloves, 2021
Oil on canvas
Diptych
Part 1: 31 3/4 x 40 1/4 inches (80.7 x 102.2 cm)
Part 2: 36 7/8 x 39 1/4 inches (93.8 x 99.6 cm)

Also on view in Paris is a two-part work, Gloves (2021). Vaguely resembling a crime scene or laboratory, the subject matter derives from a YouTube tutorial of a painter cleaning his brushes. Rendered in Tuymans’s typical muted palette, the figure’s gloves and apron instead read like butcher’s tools, a juxtaposition that creates a curious commentary on the role of the painter in today’s world. 

A detail of a painting by Luc Tuymans titled Gloves , dated 2021

Luc Tuymans, Gloves, 2021 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Gloves, 2021 (detail)

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled BBC, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

BBC, 2021
Oil on canvas
69 1/8 x 44 1/2 inches (175.6 x 113.1 cm)
Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, dated 2022

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, 2022

Installation view, Luc Tuymans: Eternity, David Zwirner, Paris, 2022

As the pandemic continues on across the globe, the imagery and titling of Distancing (2021) inevitably conjure up memories of social-distancing measures observed most strictly in the early stages of quarantine. Tuymans in fact pulled the imagery from surveillance footage of a waiting room, which he photographed on his iPhone.

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Distancing, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Distancing, 2021
Oil on canvas
81 3/8 x 60 3/8 inches (206.7 x 153.3 cm)

“The artist explores the constant horizon of screens … that increasingly mediates our view of the world.… Conflating allusions to isolation, voyeurism, security, and entrapment, [these works] also reflect in different ways on the viewer’s approach to the image … challenging our own sense of distance from what we see.”

 
—Ralph Rugoff, in the exhibition catalogue for Luc Tuymans, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 2010

A detail of a painting by Luc Tuymans titled Distancing, dated 2021

Luc Tuymans, Distancing, 2021 (detail)

Luc Tuymans, Distancing, 2021 (detail)

“Art’s purpose is to make things visible, especially those that are most commonly ignored, those we miss precisely because they are in plain sight. To the extent that the penumbra which settles over Tuymans’s images further obscures them, its effect, indeed its function is to make us look harder.”

 

—Robert Storr, in the exhibition catalogue for Nice. Luc Tuymans, The Menil Collection, Houston, 2013

An image of the artist in front of his painting Eternity, dated 2021

Luc Tuymans, 2022. Photo: Otman Qrita

Luc Tuymans, 2022. Photo: Otman Qrita

PROGRAM

 

Luc Tuymans in conversation with Helen Molesworth

 

Inquire about works by Luc Tuymans

A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Library, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Library, 2021
Oil on canvas
64 5/8 x 117 7/8 inches (164.2 x 299.5 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled See, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

See, 2021
Oil on canvas
58 1/8 x 57 1/4 inches (147.7 x 145.3 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Eternity, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Eternity, 2021
Oil on canvas
124 x 108 3/8 inches (314.9 x 275.4 cm)
Installation view of four oil on canvas paintings by Luc Tuymans, titled Polarisation I-IV - Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, at David Zwirner in New York, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Polarisation - Based on a data visualization by Mauro Martino, 2021
Oil on canvas
4 parts work
Part 1: 96 1/2 x 53 3/8 inches (245.2 x 135.5 cm)
Part 2: 96 5/8 x 57 1/2 inches (245.5 x 146 cm)
Part 3: 96 5/8 x 62 1/2 inches (245.3 x 158.8 cm)
Part 4: 96 5/8 x 61 inches (245.3 x 154.9 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Stormy Planet, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Stormy Planet, 2021
Oil on canvas
43 5/8 x 49 inches (110.9 x 124.3 cm)
An oil on canvas painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Gloves, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Gloves, 2021
Oil on canvas
Diptych
Part 1: 31 3/4 x 40 1/4 inches (80.7 x 102.2 cm)
Part 2: 36 7/8 x 39 1/4 inches (93.8 x 99.6 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Food, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Food, 2021
Oil on canvas
100 x 100 1/8 inches (254.1 x 254.3 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Distancing, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Distancing, 2021
Oil on canvas
81 3/8 x 60 3/8 inches (206.7 x 153.3 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled BBC, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

BBC, 2021
Oil on canvas
69 1/8 x 44 1/2 inches (175.6 x 113.1 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled After, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

After, 2021
Oil on canvas
85 1/8 x 46 1/8 inches (216.3 x 117.2 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Fantomas, dated 2022.

Luc Tuymans

Fantomas, 2022
Oil on canvas
31 7/8 x 21 3/4 inches (81 x 55.2 cm)
A painting by Luc Tuymans, titled Estate, dated 2021.

Luc Tuymans

Estate, 2021
Oil on canvas
80 3/8 x 54 7/8 inches (204.1 x 139.5 cm)

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          Eternity

          Luc Tuymans

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