The Tunnel Vision of Contemporary Master Luc Tuymans

Belgian artist Luc Tuymans uses both figurative and metaphorical imagery in his paintings, to resurrect information that he absorbs from other forms of media. He relies on emotionally charged, nuanced brushstrokes to create stylized, expressive works, executed in a muted color palette. Along with artists likes Marlene Dumas and Peter Doig, Tuymans contributed to the resurgence of painting as a prevalent medium in the 1990s. This rebirth gave deserved credit to Tuymans and his contemporaries, and paved the way for a continued evolution in the art of painting in the following decades.

Tuymans delves into film, television, and print media, and examines them within the contexts of history and personal memory. His 2004 painting, Tunnel, is unusual—considered against his broader practice—in that the pictorial space is deserted, depicting an empty room. The destitution of the space illuminates the painting techniques at which Tuymans excels. White and gray walls comprised of definite, yet unobtrusive brushstrokes, close in and stop just short of reaching a point of linear perspective. 

One might think that the space shown in Tunnel is reminiscent of a traditional “white cube” gallery, which can feel ethereal and overwhelmingly vacant. The painting’s title, however, suggests a space that extends beyond a confined room; the lightness and openness of this painting encourages an array of interpretations. “The very first impact is visual. It is an image that grabs me,” Tuyman's has said of his paintings. “The images usually have the characteristic of being either frightening or arresting and end up recurring. These are usually images that I don't understand at all, that I can only understand by making the body of work.” 

Sophia Alexandrov

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