By Anand Holla
In what promises to be an enlightening discussion, celebrated Belgian artist Luc Tuymans will be down at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCU-Q), in association with Qatar Museums, for a talk, tomorrow (Monday) noon.
Tuymans in conversation with curator Philippe Pirotte will be held at the VCU-Q Atrium at 12pm. The entry is free. Tuymans, who is often referred to as one of the world’s most influential painters working today, has been a leader amongst a new generation of figurative painters, widely credited with having contributed to the revival of the painting in the 1990s.
Entering the wonderland of Tuymans’ massive retrospective at Al Riwaq here in Doha – it is on till January 30 – is as enlightening as it is enthralling. Beyond the wash of apparent beauty and calmness, lurk hideous realities bursting with tales of violence, oppression and aggression. Defiantly titled Intolerance, the Gulf’s first solo exhibition of the artist’s work, helmed by Qatar Museums, is an artistic tour de force that encompasses 30 years of the “painter of modern life”.
All through his career, Tuymans has addressed difficult topics such as colonialism, post-colonialism, and the propaganda symbols of Nazi Germany, and his signature painting style often references the techniques and visual qualities of film, reusing and refocusing images in ways that can simultaneously compel and distance the viewer. His work has been presented as the focus of several retrospectives, including at the Tate Modern, 2004, the Wexner Center for the Arts, 2009, and BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels in 2011.
In a recent interview with Community, Tuymans explained why he chose to embrace technology, given how his more recent paintings have been based on digital images found on the Internet or shot using his camera phone.
“I don’t see any point in fighting new media because you are never going to win it. So I just include it in the tool-box,” Tuymans said, “The funny thing is the end product is something like an antique – it’s a painting. But paintings have a specific element. They have their own rhetoric, which goes over time, through time, with time. It’s a very slow medium. But it’s also quite a physical medium. There’s also the point about intensity. Every painting in this show you see is made in one day. That may be the end of my attention span but it’s also my idea of intensity, timing, and precision, which are all what painting is about for me. So, it is actually an execution, it’s a kill. Art for me, in a certain sense, has some relationship with war.” When asked about which part of the process he finds to be the toughest, Tuymans said, “Within the whole process of arriving at an image, the most painful one is the process of conceptualising the imagery; to find it. When I paint, I actually shift my brain to my hands because you can also be intelligent with your hands. When I paint, I don’t want to think. I really want to concentrate. I don’t feel heat or cold when I am painting. I am completely into it. The first three hours are horrible – it’s like hell. You don’t know what you are doing. But once it starts to fall together, it’s an incredible pleasure.”
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