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‘Never Surrender’ – Luc Tuymans speaks out at his London show

4 February 2015

The 10 paintings in Luc Tuyman’s second solo show at David Zwirner’s London gallery are based on a wider than usual range of sources. The smallest and perhaps most powerful are the three based on Henry Raeburn’s portraits of William Robertson, John Robison and John Playfair (all 2014). With their faces in close-up and two of the three looking directly at the viewer, the paintings are a series of searching stares, in warmer tones and with more careful brushwork than the rest of the canvases on display. The larger canvases, which include The Shore – an unusually dark work based on the opening scene of Twist of the Sand (1968), a film Tuymans found on YouTube – seem almost decorative in comparison, merely by covering more of the Mayfair townhouse’s walls.

Inevitably, at the opening Tuymans was asked about the recent judgement by a Belgian civil court, which ruled that his painting A Belgian Politician (2011) infringed on the copyright of the Flemish photojournalist whose photograph inspired it. The painter was in defiant mood and says he will appeal the decision: ‘To quote one of the most famous British statesman,’ he said, ‘We will never surrender.’ Throwing caution to the winds, and apologising in advance to the Dutch ambassador who was due to attend the private view that evening, he continued: ‘It is insane. You also have to understand, the French-speaking press doesn’t go there; the Flemish-speaking press, not all of them do, but it’s a very right-centred part of the country…they’ve been hating me for decades.’

(2014), Luc Tuymans.

The Shore (2014), Luc Tuymans. Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London

Tuymans, confident that he will win the appeal, seemed to enjoy the ironies of the actual trial. Unable to show the judge the original painting, which is in the United States, he explained: ‘We made a copy, one on one – a print – and we took it to court to show the physical difference, but of course that’s not really the painting. Whereas the lawyers said, “Ah, another copy.”’

‘Luc Tuymans: The Shore’ is at David Zwirner, London, until 2 April.

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