Louisiana was the site of Tal R’s museum debut just over 20 years ago. In 2017 he revisited the museum in the large retrospective exhibition Academy of Tal R, which included the Habakuk suite. With support from the New Carlsberg Foundation the museum can now add one of the paintings in this series to its growing Tal R collection.

Kolbojnik and contemporary life

Since Tal R broke through in both the Danish and the international art scene, when he was still just a student at the Royal Danish Academic of Fine Arts, he has made a name for himself with an idiosyncratic, playful style. Although he may be regarded as an heir to modernism and compared to canonized artists such as Henri Matisse and Paul Klee, Tal R has established a wholly unique and humorous style that takes a free, imaginative approach to a wide range of techniques and materials.  

Tal R uses the word ‘kolbojnik’, a Yiddish term referring to ‘left-overs’, to describe his method, which draws on his motifs from both high and low culture. Like a collector, Tal R sources anything from comic-book figures and pornography to art history references and brings the disparate pieces together in a chaotic and often surreal mix, where the relationship between figure, scale, space and perspective is always up for negotiation. Regardless how hectic the compositions are, however, the artist preserves a high degree of recognizability in images based on familiar icons and scenes from modern life.

Tal R’s early works are particularly complex and cacophonic. In the new Habakuk suite he uses some of his signature techniques, such as a special mix of pigment and hare glue that produces a matt, luminous surface. The mood is much calmer, however, and the composition more meticulous. The museum’s new painting measures three by five metres. The background consists of a sequence of vertical fields ranging in colour from pale blue to black. The entire foreground is dominated by similar fields, forming the image of a train car. In the lower right field of the painting, ‘:Habakuk’ is written in script writing – a Biblical reference and apparently the artist’s nickname for his father.

From student to major international name

Louisiana was quick to spot the artist’s originality and has followed Tal R’s career closely from the first beginnings in the 1990s until today. Over the years, Louisiana has established a substantial collection of his paintings, including such principal pieces as The Bend (also a donation from the New Carlsberg Foundation) as well as a complete collection of graphic pieces, which is continuously updated, as the artist hands in new works to the museum on an ongoing basis. As part of this collection, Habakuk helps to paint a nuanced picture of Tal R’s development. It also demonstrates that today, two decades into his career, Tal R’s artistic audacity is undiminished.