Luc Tuymans: On the event of his forthcoming exhibition, ‘Birds of a Feather’ at the Talbot Rice Gallery
by Maro Psyrra
On 31 October 2015, his new series of work titled ‘Birds of a Feather’ shall be presented at the Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh. This is the first presentation of the Belgian artist’s works in Scotland and the whole endeavour is not merely a retrospective exhibition but a targeted project, a painting installation which exploits all of the elements which characterize Tuymans’ elaborate work. Mixing elements of Scottish history and philosophy with the iconography of the past, the Belgian artist negotiates contemporary perceptions on the concepts of independence, freedom, enlightenment and social control.
His new project, designed exclusively for this exhibition in Edinburgh, is forged in the embers of the Scottish Enlightenment and its thinkers, who believed in the ability of humans to shape their future rationally. After extensive research of the art collection of the University of Edinburgh, Tuymans chose to present a radically innovative pictorial series with depictions of canaries (one of the most recognisable domesticated birds), anonymous gatherings of people and Raeburn’s sombre black-robed academics, all of which function symbolically and compose the artist’s personal narration on the advent of rational thought, in the context, however, of the contemporary era. The narration begins with three small portraits of Scottish philosophers, originally painted by the eighteenth-century artist Henry Raeburn and proceeds through different approaches within a dark world of menacing horror, which is composed of second-hand images of pictorial tradition and contemporary reality.
This intricate endeavour clearly reflects Luc Tuymans’ artistic education, who, during his entire artistic journey has developed a special relationship with history and with the spectator of a work of art. History is not merely a source of inspiration but we could also claim that in Tuymans’ case it is an incessant field of research, open to new approaches and interpretations. The spectator loses the passive role of viewing and actively participates in a radical game of ideas, being simultaneously a transmitter and receiver.
The exhibition will last until 19 December 2015 at the Talbot Rice Gallery and will include new paintings and drawings specifically created for Edinburgh. A catalogue with commissioned essays by Will Self and Colin Chinnery will be available in November.
Images are courtesy of the Talbot Rice Gallery.
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