The paintings in the series Le Temps du sommeil were begun in 1996 and often worked on at night. They feature visionary dreamlike scenes involving tiny suited men and women acting out strange rituals reminiscent of children’s games and gymnastic experiments. Many of these images anticipate and recall the forms he has employed in his actions, but the paintings connect to his actions in other ways too since their surfaces are worked and re-worked. Like the actions, they are perpetually unfinished, and their interpretations unfold over time without resolution.
Painting remains central to Alÿs’s work. Partly this is because the sale of paintings finances his major projects, but also because he takes great pleasure in its privacy, and in using this traditional medium to create miniature images on humble and often recycled supports. In various projects he also examines its ability to address itself to wider political concerns.