In Gallery 6, works by Swiss artist Miriam Cahn were presented in dialogue with a selection of iconic pieces by Luc Tuymans and an ensemble by young Brazilian painter Antonio Obá, shown for the first time.
The five paintings by Luc Tuymans presented in Gallery 6 allow us to re-read many of the fundamental features of his work from a European cultural perspective. These features include war, and more specifically World War II, the banality of evil, the baroque combination of tragedy and farce, and the ambiguity of reality and its images. Luc Tuymans was born in 1958 in Mortsel, Belgium. He lives and works in Antwerp. Considered one of the most influential painters on the international art scene, Luc Tuymans has devoted himself to figurative painting since the mid-1980s and has contributed, throughout his career, to the revival of this medium in contemporary art.
His works explore questions relating to the past and more recent history, and tackle everyday subjects through a repertoire of images borrowed from the private and public spheres: the press, television, Internet, etc. The artist refers to the imagination, transformed by the media, and also employs images found on the web, or photographs taken personally with his mobile phone, which he then prints and rephotographs. His discreet palette consists of different shades of grey and pastel colours. Tuymans reproduces these images and dissolves them in an unusual and rarefied light, which conveys a certain sense of unease, and triggers, in his own words, an “authentic forgery” of reality. Luc Tuymans’ works challenge history and its events: the artist explores pressing themes, such as the American dream, the horror of Nazism, the impact of post-colonialism, and American politics. His work was the subject of an unprecedented retrospective at the Palazzo Grassi, in Venice, from March 2019 to January 2020, entitled “La Pelle”.
The spectral appearance of the figures painted and drawn by Miriam Cahn are surrounded by acid colours or revealed against the bare background of the sheet of paper, by a thick line of black pigment, applied with her finger. These works are nailed directly to the wall. Their transience arises from a reflection on memory and time; their inspiration is tied to the political and feminist beliefs of the artist, and the works vacillate between an organic sensuality, stylization, expressionism and raw objectivity. We see naked, matriarchal, powerful, gendered, warlike bodies, in frontal views, where the gaze is absent. Miriam Cahn’s corpus, founded on the representation of bodies, focuses more precisely on the conditions of the appearance of the image: its emergence, distress, disappearance. A mirage in an evanescent landscape, the mysterious appearance of a silhouette, the moving halo of a face…
Born in 1949 in Basel, Switzerland, Miriam Cahn initially studied graphic design before turning her attention to drawing. Whether executed in chalk on gallery walls and in public spaces, or in charcoal on large notebooks placed on the floor, her first drawings from the late 1970s bear witness to a vehement, violent, transgressive expression. The artist even used her own body as a medium in her video performances. Her name became known when she presented her work at Documenta, Kassel in 1982. This event coincided with her interest in oils and colour, which are now her preferred means of expression.
An ensemble of seven works by Brazilian artist Antonio Obá is presented for the first time by the Pinault Collection. Antonio Obá’s syncretic practice takes inspiration from the Brazilian religious and mystical universe: influenced by these beliefs, he explores the construction of identity. He adopts different artistic vocabularies, as evidenced by his ambitious painted compositions, with their complex and enigmatic iconography, imbued with symbolist undertones, and borrowing from the history of painting. Antonio Obá also uses his own body, which he presses against the paper, directly affixing his imprint, imperfect, flayed but also eroticized, on his drawings.
Antonio Obá was born in 1983 in Brasilia, where he lives and works today. In his multiform practice—painting, drawing, sculpture, performance and installation—he refers to the contradictions present in his culture. For example, his installations feature ex-votos—objects offered to gods in gratitude for mercy or intercession—to which the artist adds organic animal elements or debris with a strong symbolic charge (teeth, horseshoes, nails, etc.). These composite images of religious icons with seemingly magical powers, akin to amulets, attest to painful stories and injured bodies, drawn from both individual narratives and a universal past.