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the natural element. That is why I get fed up with the whole discourse
about painting being legitimate, being dead or alive. Of course it is very
much alive, because people do it.
WS: You once said to me that you want your works to look like they
were painted 50 years ago. But I think also, it is sort of about being
styleless, making things look timeless.
LT: Yes, I think that is basically the aim of every painting.
WS: Do you listen to music when you paint? I tried books on tape but
couldn’t focus. But I listen to music and the radio.
LT: I never bought a record in my life. I never put on the radio. I rented
a studio for 30 years, and I used to live there, too. It is very small and
horrible smelling because of the paint – so bad that every relationship I
disclosed or not disclosed. I’m from the Eastern Bloc, yes, but the music had was a one-night stand. And I fucked up many works by just being
I listened to, the films I watched, were the same as for Westerners. there constantly, which is suffocating. Now I have a larger studio, and it
I don’t think art is the best medium to, not indoctrinate, but to tell is fabulous to have all this space. I was afraid it would change my habits,
people your opinion. But you can’t be indifferent. but it didn’t.
LT: Art should be localised. I have strong chauvinistic feelings for WS: My space imposes limits – 200 by 220 centimetres –
Antwerp, because it has been the city of the smart-arses since the the size of a painting I can get through the frame of the door.
sixteenth century. But I could see myself working in a city like Krakow,
or Warsaw, because of the quality of light. LT: You could paint on unframed canvas, as I do.
WS: Light doesn’t matter for me. When I worked in Marfa, Texas,
it didn’t make a difference. The pieces didn’t have anything to do with
the place. The way I worked, Googling, it was the same thing I did at
“I couldn’t look at
home. And honestly, I don’t like winter in Poland. You just wait for it to
be over.
old paintings after
LT: When I was younger I used to work a lot at night, but daylight
gives me the reality of things, a sharper, clearer understanding of the
visual. Even if you work from a photograph during daylight, you will
I had finished
see different things. But painting for me is a habit, a very obsessive
occupation, 24 hours a day.
school… I wanted
WS: Yes, making painting is not just touching the canvas.
LT: No. It is continuous. But once you create a style, you lose this habit,
to burn them”
WS: Do you know from the very beginning what the painting is going
to look like?
LT: Yes. I never project anything. When I start to work, I plan it and I
paint the lightest colour first. I have the size in my head, so I nail up a
prepared canvas that’s a little bit bigger. Then I draw the real size of
the image, measuring as I go and drawing straight into the wet paint.
And then I wipe it away and start to paint. I can change things a bit, a
millimetre or centimetre, but the format never changes. And when the
image is right, after the day is over, I paint a white ribbon around it to
focus it.
WS: How many paintings do you have on the wall at one time?
LT: Normally it is for a show, so ten or twelve. You are influenced by the
other works, they help you stay in the same mode, but I never work on
two at the same time.
Tuymans/Sasnal.indd 48 8/1/08 09:57:21
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