Ambiguity and unease pervade the works in this room. Although the imagery is apparently harmless, the suggestive titles of these works imply more than first meets the eye: an abstract pattern of red circular shapes is ominously called Bloodstains, while the arrangement of simple shapes in another painting, which includes the tulip motif from an everyday advertising logo, has the shocking title, Child Abuse. These works hint at the unknown, and potentially horrifying, stories behind ordinary appearances and evoke the idea of the uncanny - when something familiar suddenly appears strange or threatening.
Three works in this room come from Tuymans’ largest series of works to date, Der Diagnostische Blick (‘The Diagnostic View’), 1992, which addresses the theme of the ailing or sick body. The complete series consists of ten paintings of different people, mostly middle-aged men, taken from medical photographs displaying symptoms of different illnesses. Tuymans was interested in these images as source material because, unlike many photographs, they expressed the clinical detachment of the medical observer. Tuymans altered the confrontational gaze of the subjects in the photographs so that they look askance, away from the viewer. This further reduced the emotional and psychological content of the images, draining character from the human faces, and leaving behind empty shells or masks. These images are marked by the absence of the idea of human pain and suffering. As Tuymans has explained: ‘The ultimate idea of reality is to be confronted with the hardness and the impossibility of psychological penetration. I wanted to depict sickness not in its obviousness. Sickness should appear in the way the painting is made, and have it throw sickness back at the viewer.’