Working across a diverse range of media including painting, drawing, print, textiles, sculpture and furniture, Tal R questions our conceptions of and presumptions about our surrounding reality – what we’re seeing and where its meaning lies. With their flamboyant colours and exuberantly painted imagery, the paintings for which Tal R first became known give the impression of being simple, almost turning high art into child's play. While they are certainly direct, with paint often squeezed straight from the tube, his canvases in fact wear their sophistication and intelligence lightly. Central to the work is Tal R's profound understanding of painterly tradition which simultaneously accommodates muscular, expressive brushstrokes used to describe people, objects or places, and a stabilising pictorial format informed in part by formalist abstraction. These early paintings are divided into three horizontal bands which can be read by the viewer as levels of different activity.
In later works, insistent verticals or horizontals, cut and layered canvases, starburst forms and borders give the work structure while Tal R's colour scheme is often restricted to a handful of hues. In his paintings, Tal R has often tempered experimentation with self-imposed restriction in terms of composition and colour palette and his most recent paintings see a significant evolution in his methodology – both compositionally and in the application of paint. Created through a process similar to the historical use of distemper, in which pure pigments are mixed with rabbit glue, the canvases glow with Rothko-like intensity. Limiting opportunity for addition and revision, this new process for the artist has resulted in a series of stripped-down compositions, which he describes as 'moving from the periphery of painting to its centre.'
At the same time, Tal R has has often used the word 'kolbojnik', meaning leftovers in Hebrew, to describe his practice of sourcing and collecting a wide range of imagery, figurative and abstract, from high and low culture. Installed collectively, Tal R’s works can eschew adherence to a single aesthetic style in favour of a non-hierarchical exploration of material and form. He is also known for producing unique, hand-made sofas, or ‘opiumbeds’, which are made from old and new rugs sourced throughout Scandinavia and treated with paint and dye in the studio. Neither the practical purpose of these works nor their aesthetic qualities take categorical precedence. The idea of the opium bed suggests a hazy, latent space of unfettered thinking, the functional object delineating a non-functional space of thought. They represent just one way in which Tal R plays with the porous boundary between art and life.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Tal R moved to Denmark with his family as a child. He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen, graduating in 2000, and continues to live and work in the city.
In June 2020, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, opened Animals and People, featuring a series of new bronzes by the artist (on view until 17 January 2021). Recent major solo exhibitions include eventually all museums will be ships, which was on view at Hastings Contemporary, Hastings, UK, as part of the gallery's inaugural programme (2019); this is not Detroit, held at MOCA Detroit, US (2018); Academy of Tal R, which opened at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in 2017, subsequently touring to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam.
Previous solo exhibitions have recently been staged at institutional venues including CFA Berlin, Berlin, Germany (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019); ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark (2013–2014); Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2013); Galerie im Taxispalais, Innsbruck, Austria, travelling to Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (both 2013); Museu Brasileiro da Escultura, São Paulo (2012); Museum Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf (2012); Kunstverein Augsburg-Holbeinhaus, Augsburg, Germany (2011); Der Kunstverein, Hamburg (2011); Magasin III Museum & Foundation for Contemporary Art, Stockholm (2009); Kunsthalle Tübingen, Tübingen (2009); Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht (2008); Camden Arts Centre, London (2008); Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark (2007); and Kunsthalle Mannheim (2007). Tal held a Professorship at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 2005–2014.