'It doesn't matter how conceptual a work is, it's still the idea that you're looking through a keyhole.'
In this interview with Elephant, filmed on the occasion of his 2017–18 exhibitions Academy of Tal R at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and Sexshops at Victoria Miro, the artist talks about intimacy in painting, working without prior information and being open to others telling his story.
Originating at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (14 October 2017–21 January 2018) Academy of Tal R was both a twenty-year career overview and a presentation of new works. The exhibition title is intentionally humorous – given Tal R's searching, vital and, as the artist says, 'not very academic' approach.
As Harry Thorne commented in a review of the exhibition in Frieze, 'Art objects can be cruel, deceptive beasts; paintings, fiends who frequently conceal their earliest ambitions and assays beneath an impenetrable external layer. Annie Dillard is scrupulous: "A painting covers its tracks." Here, not so. For Tal R, painting is the tracks alone, a continuous supplement to life that might render everyday enigmas intelligible. To embrace the artist's own metaphor: painting is a colon: it always follows, and is always followed by, another. With this principle in place, we ask: the academy is? A well-constructed joke: an acknowledgement that art academies are well-intentioned miscalculations that attempt to freeze and formalize something forever in motion: a motion that, like life, is perennially remade, over and over and over again.'
About Tal R
An artist of enquiring intellect and wide-ranging facility, Tal R is considered to be among the most influential of his generation. Working across a diverse range of media including painting, drawing, print, textiles, sculpture and furniture, he questions our conceptions of and presumptions about our surrounding reality – what we’re seeing and where its meaning lies.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Tal R lives and works in Copenhagen. A solo exhibition of new bronze sculptures, Animals and People, is scheduled to open at Glyptoteket, Copenhagen in 2020. Recently, the artist has held solo presentations at Magasin II, Jaffa, Israel (2019); Hastings Contemporary, Hastings, UK (2019); MOCAD, Detroit (2019) and his major survey Academy of Tal R opened at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in 2017, touring to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. Previous solo exhibitions have been staged at institutions including ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus, Denmark (2013–2014); Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich (2013); Kunstverein in Hamburg (2011) and Camden Arts Centre, London (2008), amongst others. Tal R held a Professorship at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf from 2005–2014.
Tal R, published by Lund Humphries
Written by Martin Herbert, the first fully illustrated monograph devoted to Tal R's career was published by Lund Humphries in 2019 as part of its Contemporary Painters Series. Writing in the foreword, series editor Barry Schwabsky noted:
‘It is hard to think of a contemporary painter who has ranged through so many kinds of imagery… and also been able to work so many variations on each theme or motif he has handled… Tal R is prodigal in his gifts, but he knows better than to accept them uncritically. No wonder he is one of today’s most salient painters.’
Film made by Charlotte Jansen, produced by Elephant
Installation view, Academy of Tal R, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 14 October 2017–21 January 2018. Photography: Lotte Stekelenburg