In 1958, when Luc Tuymans was born, Paul Thek was twenty-five years old; when Tuymans was thirty, Thek died. Despite large-scale exhibitions in the major museums of the world, Thek’s oeuvre persists in insurmountable remoteness. It has been considered an example of a “private mythology” (Documenta 7, 1972) and has itself become a legend; Thek is referred to as an “artist’s artist”. Tuymans’s oeuvre, on the other hand, is firmly rooted in contemporary relevance, though only by insisting on its anachronism. It demands to be understood as an “authentic forgery”, radiating an aura of obsoleteness from the outset, and devoting itself to the interminable duration of a disastrous history and a present already bearing traces of its future decay.
In the 2010 exhibition “The Reality of the Lowest Rank” in Bruges, works by both artists were on view in close proximity. Tuymans, who was responsible for that show, employed as its title an expression by Tadeusz Kantor which conjures up the formless or unformed aspect of reality manifested in raw matter, base and abased existence, refuse and the booty of scavengers. For the show “Why?!” at Galerie Czarnowska, Tuymans again chose the works – his own and those by Paul Thek, dating from 1978 onwards in the one case and 1958 onwards in the other. The majority were borrowed from public and private collections; two new Tuymans works, however, will come directly from the studio. It was Tuymans’s wish to make this exhibition happen; he spoke of a measurable distance between his works and those of Paul Thek.
With selected works from S.M.A.K. (Ghent):
Luc Tuymans – Body