Luc Tuymans

[no title]


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Luc Tuymans born 1958
Part of
The Temple
Etching and aquatint on paper
Unconfirmed: 800 × 610 mm
Purchased 1997


Portfolio of 8 etchings with aquatint on BFK Rives wove paper 800 x 610; printed by Peter Kneub-4hler, Z-4rich and published by Peter Blum Editions, New York in an edition of 35
Purchased from Blumarts Inc., New York (Grant-in-Aid) 1997

This text discusses the group of eight works (P78005-P78012) as a whole.

Much of Tuymans's work is influenced by cinema and television and by his own experiments with film and photography. 'For my generation, television is very important. There's a huge amount of visual information which can never be experienced but which can be seen, and its impact is enormous. I think it's almost impossible to make a universal image. One can only make bits of images. Existence looks edited ... After seeing a film I try to figure out which single image is the one with which I can remember all the moving images of the movie.' (Ulrich Loock, Juan Vicente Aliaga, Nancy Spector, Luc Tuymans, London 1996, p.12)

Tuymans used a television documentary film as the source of the portfolio of prints called The Temple. The subject of the documentary was the Mormon religion in the United States. Tuymans recorded the programme on video and took photographic stills from the television screen. He produced a series of watercolours based on these stills and then photographed these with a Polaroid camera. He then took Polaroid pictures of the first set of Polaroids and, finally, painted another group of watercolours based on the second set of Polaroids. These watercolours were used as the studies for the resulting prints. When interviewed about the separate stages used in making these prints, Tuymans described how 'they are all representations of representations, so the material used is always based upon a memory of materials, or memorised imagery, which means that the imagery is always third rate' (interviewed by Faye Hirsch, 'Working Proof', in On Paper, vol. 1, no. 2, Nov.-Dec. 1996, p.34). The dark rectangles and contrasting lighter images in the final prints can be read as evoking the original source of the television screen, blank and dark when not in use, and emitting flickering light when switched on.

The eight images in The Temple, taken in order, show:
(1) the entrance to the building in Salt Lake City which houses the Mormons' genealogical databank, with its bank vault door
(2) the room in this same building where Mormon marriage ceremonies are carried out
(3) an office within the building where a member of the sect is in attendance
(4) a Mormon blessing or baptism
(5) a piece of microfilm on which the genealogical records and data are stored
(6) Mormon missionaries crossing a street in southern America
(7) the Museum of the Book of Mormon
(8) the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, from which the portfolio takes its title.
The prints do not have individual titles and it is the artist's wish that they are displayed in the sequence described above. This set is numbered 6 out of the edition of 35.

Since 1995, American subjects and imagery have been a feature of Tuymans's work. He has stated that in focusing on the 'super-American subject' of the Mormon religion, it was his intention to reveal the secular social structures and highly organised, almost profane, character of this 'religious FBI' (ibid. p.33).

Further reading:
Luc Tuymans interviewed by Faye Hirsch, 'Working Proof', in On Paper, vol. 1, no. 2, Nov.-Dec. 1996, pp.33-4

Michela Parkin
June 1997

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Technique and condition

The following entry discusses eight prints by Luc Tuymans, P78005-P78012

This portfolio of eight etchings with aquatint was printed on Rives BFK mouldmade paper, by Peter Kneubühler, Zürich.

The dense black in the upper part of the print was made with a fine textured aquatint applied to the plate and etched overall. The soft lines in the image below suggest that the artist used the method of sugar aquatint by painting directly onto the plate with a sugar and Indian ink mixture, producing a line that then prints positively. Each colour was applied separately on individual plates, using as many as six plates in one print.

The artist's signature is inscribed in pencil, lower right. The prints are in good condition.

Jo Crook
June 1997

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