Shaped by tonality and recessed perspective, Luc Tuymans' Untitled of 1978 confronts the viewer with a dramatic and uncanny three-quarter self-portrait. Clues to a narrative remain profoundly ambiguous, as indeed do the subjects in Tuymans' enigmatic paintings at large. Tuymans' paintings revel in the network of spatial manipulations and their subjective implications. Commenting on this phenomenon in an interview the artist stated that 'in order to show something, I paint a lot away' (Luc Tuymans quoted in Maja Naef, 'Vom Verstummen des Bildes. Ein Gespräch mit Luc Tuymans' in: Kunst-Bulletin, 12, 2002, S. 13). Perhaps more than any other genre, portraiture allows Tuymans to explore the balance between revealing and concealing whilst luring the viewer in with understated painterly gesture, and saturated coloration.
In Untitled a sense of brooding emanates from the canvas whilst the eye patch dramatizes the falsehood of portraiture by 'tak[ing] all the ideas out of individuality and just leav[ing] the shell' ('Juan Vicente Aliaga in Conversation with Luc Tuymans' in Luc Tuymans, by U. Loock et al., 2nd ed. London, 2003, 15). This work establishes the pattern for many of Tuymans' portraits: the effacement of the sitter; the artificial imposition of depersonalization and the elimination of the sitter's identity within the visual bounds of the picture.
As with Lucian Freud’s Refection with Two Children (Self-Portrait) of 1965 in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid, Tuymans’ Untitled engages in a fort-da game of depth and fatness, representation and its disappearance. Lying on the floor, Tuymans adapted Freud’s experimental stance by looking down at his refection in a mirror placed by his feet. This accounts for the extreme foreshortening which stretches to a new extreme the distance between the image and its reference.