Michaël Borremans — One of the Most Prolific Artists of Our Time
Unquestionably one of the most prolific artists of our time, Michaël Borremans (born 1963, Belgium) creates a world of imagery that defies conventions. Since the 1990’s, he has translated his vision across various media including film, drawing, etching and sculpture yet his main oeuvre is painting — a technique he unearthed later on in his artistic career. His latest solo exhibition, Sixteen Dances, at Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp, presented some of his most recent work, which, more than ever, transcends expectations.
Upon entering the stark, white corridor and continuing into the first exhibition space, you are met, or rather, confronted face-to-face with a painting of a child, whose form assumes the entirety of the canvas. After taking a few steps closer, Fire From the Sun captivates the observer; the child’s skin—painted red in a chaotic manner with whips of large brushstrokes—solemnly stands upright while holding an unidentifiable object in it’s tiny hand. It is this image that sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition; anonymous characters engaged in mysterious activities with very little context, gifting the viewer the power to theorize about the figure’s spacial environment and obscure interactions. Nearly half of the twenty-eight paintings that constitute the exhibition depict toddlers partaking in seemingly normal child-like behaviour, in spite of the existing undeniably morbid and detached atmosphere that surrounds them. Red as the chosen colour of their skin suggests they are covered in blood once we realize their toys have been replaced by human limbs.
The splendid use of light and shadows, reminiscent of Old Masters works, convey a strange notion of attraction and intrigue in another series presenting feminine silhouettes cloaked in glistening bodysuits. After inspection, the warm colours that once seduced the eye soon provoke the viewer to experience suffocating in the form of a lingering discomfort as if one were wearing the mask of the characters portrayed. That is the magic of Borremans’ work: to simultaneously charm and shock the spectator.
Finally, tucked away in a darker room towards the back of the gallery, smaller artworks are painted on wooden panels, recalling the rich painting history of the artist’s native Flanders. Sometimes uneven, often cracked, the choice of medium imparts a greater dimension to the symbolically ambiguous images. A group of young black men are seen dancing and gnawing on pieces of meat that, similarly to the Fire From the Sun series, evoke cannibalistic connotations. Despite the realistic execution of the painting technique, the neutral studio backdrop the characters are fixed on reminds the viewer that it is all but an illusion.
In Borremans' oeuvre, what we observe and perceive is never established, however multiple cultural and historical themes and concepts can be inferred, giving insight into an enigmatic world where every element challenges the viewer.
Following Sixteen Dances, Michaël Borremans will be taking part in the opening exhibition of David Zwirner gallery in Hong Kong in 2018 as well as participating in the 2018 Sydney Biennial.