Belgian Painter Luc Tuymans on Why All He Needs in His Studio Is Water, Cigarettes, and Silence (Also, Some Paint)

(And paint supplies, of course.)

Luc Tuymans © Alex Salinas.
Luc Tuymans © Alex Salinas.

The Belgian artist Luc Tuymans, who has more than 150 solo exhibitions under his belt, including at the Palazzo Grassi in Venice, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Menil Collection in Houston, is known for making conceptual paintings that spring from found images. Some of his most well-regarded work braves difficult and painful subject matter, including World War II and Belgium’s dark legacy of colonialism.

The 62-year-old artist just opened his 18th exhibition at his longtime gallery, Zeno X in Antwerp, which is also his hometown. The show focuses on four monumental and cinematic canvases painted with numbers. In what has felt for many like a perpetual lockdown this year, Tuyman’s meditation on quantity and time is something we many of us will be able to relate to. 

We spoke with Tuymans about his studio habits and what he thinks is the most admirable trait in a work of art.

Studio of Luc Tuymans. Photo: Alexander Salinas.

What are the most indispensable items in your studio and why?

The most important items in my studio are painting materials, canvas, and daylight. For obvious reasons.

What is the studio task on your agenda tomorrow that you are most looking forward to?

Making a new painting.

What kind of atmosphere do you prefer when you work?

I prefer to work in a serene atmosphere.

Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence?

I prefer silence.

Studio of Luc Tuymans. Photo: Alexander Salinas.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art?

Precision.

What trait do you most despise?

Negligence and laziness.

What snack food could your studio not function without?

Water and cigarettes.

Studio of Luc Tuymans. Photo: Alexander Salinas.

When you feel stuck in the studio, what do you do to get un-stuck?

I go home.

What is the last exhibition you saw, virtual or otherwise, that made an impression on you?

The Albers and Morandi show “Never Finished” at David Zwirner.

How would you describe your mood right now?

Nervous, as always the day before working at my studio.

Luc Tuymans’s exhibition “Seconds” is on view until June 26, 2021 at Zeno X Gallery.


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