Frozen, 2003

This painting was first presented in the exhibition Fortune in New York, in 2003. It is the only time it has been shown. It is based on an image taken in Chernobyl after the catastrophic accident at the Lenin nuclear plant, on 26 April 1986, in what was at the time the Ukrainian Soviet Republic, in the USSR. It was the worst nuclear disaster of the 20th century, classified as level 7, the highest on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Inspired by an image from a YouTube documentary on the decontamination efforts carried out in Chernobyl afterwards, the painting represents the gloved hand of a worker as he is cooling down and repairing a reactor element. Luc Tuymans used a rich array of cold colors for this “frozen” painting, which he delicately combined to represent the ice that froze the reactor after it had overheated. As is often the case in his work, there is a bright halo in the bottom left of the canvas, which can signal the fusion, the quasi-nuclear Armageddon that happened. The image can be interpreted as an allegory of a man-made disaster whose consequences are overwhelming, similarly to ulterior events such as 9/11.