Luc Tuymans: Birds of a Feather
- Susan Mansfield
- 22 October 2015
Influential contemporary painter shows works inspired by 19th century Henry Raeburn paintings in the Edinburgh University collections.
Provocative Belgian painter Luc Tuymans draws on the Scottish Enlightenment for inspiration in his first solo exhibition in Scotland. Tuymans, whose subjects have included gas chambers, serial killers and contemporary right-wing politicians, has created a series of new works which respond to Enlightenment portraits by Henry Raeburn.
He has asked for several of the portraits, part of an Edinburgh University collection not normally shown to the public, to be hung alongside his own work. Principal curator Pat Fisher said: 'I knew he was a fan of Raeburn, so my first approach was to tell him about our Raeburn collection and offer to arrange a private showing. He was very impressed by the paintings, and by the history of the University, a secular institution based very much on the Enlightenment.'
Tuymans’ paintings of yellow hybrid canaries could be seen as an oblique interrogation of Enlightenment ideas, the natural world being tamed and controlled by mankind’s increasing knowledge. Fisher said: 'They could be argued to be a quite unusual response to Raeburn. I think Tuymans is conscious of rarefied knowledge and systems of power and how these groups flock together.'
Silkscreen prints suggesting ghostly crowd scenes will be hung alongside the Raeburn portraits. 'All Tuymans’ work is subject to interpretation,' Fisher says. 'It’s not about reducing it to a literal interpretation, but he is interested in the concept of humanism in the Enlightenment, and fact that that was going on at the same time as the Highland Clearances.'
Tuymans is one of a number of contemporary painters credited with reinvigorating the art form in the 1990s, and continues to be highly influential today. His work interrogates the power of images, from the shocking to the mundane. Fisher says: 'We see a shockingly large number of images every day from the minute we open our eyes, real and mediated, but we also edit them, and I think this is what Tuymans is doing.'
Talbot Rice Gallery, Sat 31 Oct–Sat 19 Dec.