This introductory selection of works captures Tuymans’ interest in the relationship between the exterior and interior, the subjective and the objective. Tuymans often draws inspiration for his works from historical events; however, he emphasises that any form of representation is shaped by a subjective, individual perspective. He asserts this subjectivity in various ways, often by looking inwards to mental states and internal organs, rather than outwards to external events.
These three works belong to a much larger series which was first shown in 1997. This edited group conveys the principle of this exhibition as a whole - it gives a partial impression of Tuymans’ oeuvre rather than a comprehensive survey. Illegitimate I, 1997 depicts the dark outlines of what appear to be female reproductive organs (a motif which appears again in La Correspondance, 1985 in Room 3) floating against an overpowering green background, and Illegitimate II, 1997 hints at the structure of a room in which biological or flower-like shapes are growing. Tuymans has described this green as the colour of contamination, introducing the theme of the diseased body which continues throughout the exhibition. In the third painting, Illegitimate III, 1997, a headless figure in an acrobat or dancer’s costume stands against a white background. Tuymans creates ambiguity between exterior and interior space - the figure appears hollow and merges with the white background but at the same time it is solid and casts a shadow.
The human body is rarely whole in Tuymans’ work. Bodies loom in and out of his paintings, often appearing as fragmented, and often diseased, body parts. Faces are disfigured, erased or even absent. ‘I take all the ideas out of individuality’, Tuymans has commented, ‘and just leave the shell, the body. To make a portrait of someone on a psychological level, for me, is an impossibility.’