To celebrate the launch of his first solo show in the region, Belgian artist Luc Tuymans visited Doha last month to give art enthusiasts a personal insight into his exhibition. Intolerance, presented by Qatar Museums, is a major retrospective of the internationally acclaimed artist’s work. FACT caught up with the man himself for a one-on-one chat and a special introduction to his work that is going on display…

Presented by Qatar Museums under the leadership of its Chairperson, HE Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Intolerance is unprecedented in its scale and content, reflecting the career of Luc Tuymans. The show is both a retrospective and a showcase for new work by the artist. The exhibition will include a series of wall paintings and a new body of work, ‘The Arena’, created specifically for the show. The exhibition has been curated by Lynne Cooke, Senior Curator of Special Projects in Modern Art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

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Spanning some thirty years, the exhibition speaks to certain abiding preoccupations that Luc Tuymans has long explored against the backdrop of a rapidly changing world. Well aware from the outset of his career that painting as an art-form was widely considered in crisis, Luc adopted a contrasting stance. Painting became for him a vehicle through which the most urgent and volatile issues, whether relating to history, identity, nationalism and belief, or to headline social and political events could be opened up to a nuanced debate. Jean-Paul Engelen, Director of Public Art at Qatar Museums said: “Qatar Museums is proud to present Intolerance, the region’s first solo exhibition of work by the internationally renowned Belgian painter Luc Tuymans. We are delighted to bring Luc’s work to this region to inspire and influence aspiring artists from the region and educate our communities about international art.

So when I was asked to make something for the region, I was with my wife in Madrid and went to look at the black painting of Goya and out of that imagery a lot came to life.

“By bringing major contemporary exhibitions to Qatar, Qatar Museums furthers its aim of creating a dialogue about the role of contemporary art and fostering an existing culture of artistic appreciation and participation in Qatar.”

Welcome to Doha – tell us more about Intolerance…

The word intolerance implies tolerance. I made a portrait of Condoleezza Rice as part of my ‘Improper’ series, which implies proper. On the other hand, ‘Intolerance’ is a film by D.W. Griffith, which was one of the major productions of 1917 and included real orientalism. My work is also based on image building. The idea of intolerance and tolerance about religion, power, and things I think are important in this region, and also for us. I come from a country that has had a lot of wars and conflict, and I have the idea to deal with all of these things.

‘The Arena’ is a piece of work especially created for this exhibition, can you tell us how that came to life?

This work is also based upon old work, which is the oldest work in the show. It is a mix media work and it’s a depiction of an idea of violence in 1942. It was nice, quite prophetic with immigrants in Europe, and also a Roman sort of circus arena. So when I was asked to make something for the region, I was with my wife in Madrid and went to look at the black painting of Goya and out of that imagery a lot came to life. I got that grotesque feeling.

As a whole, describe the exhibition in terms of your ideas and the viewers’ experience…

If you go to see the front which is a night blue, it is the same blue as one of the main spaces in the exhibition, the ‘engine,’ lets call it. In there you have a reconstruction of one show – a painting of Disneyland in its very first day, opened in the United States and everything went wrong, there was a gas leak, everything collapsed and Disney dissolved. This is an element of utopia and dystopia at the same time. But it is also an element in which a guy is also trying to create a theme park and incarcerates the idea of fantasy. Then you have the wall paintings and then you have the dark spaces, where there is less light because of the fragility of the work.

What inspires you as an artist?

That can be anything. But what is important to know is that inspiration, for me, will always be something real. My motto is “don’t under or over estimate anything.”

What is it about still life and portraits that captivates you?

They’re both dead. The people I portray are not psychological portraits. They are shells, for example the blue eye portrait; I’ve changed the eyes, so that they don’t look at you but over you and throw you off. That’s when I started to paint horizontal. Also in this show an important element is ‘disguise.’ They are very figurative, very retrieved, and very detached. Also, I want to know other things, I don’t know with this show. I am very curious as to what people will do, say and think. If they respond, my show has worked.


Exhibition Information: Luc Tuymans: Intolerance QM Gallery Al Riwaq, Qatar Museums, Doha Running until January 30 2016 Visit www.qm.org.qa for more information.