If you follow me on Instagram you might have seen that I have recently bought Micheal Borremans book titled “Micheal Borremans As sweet as it gets” to continue fuelling my obsession with him and his work. Borremans has just started to gain some proper acknowledgment, and to continue this momentum, I decided to dedicate a blog to him and how he has influenced my own work.
Micheal Borremans was born in 1963, Geraardsbergen, Belgium, acquiring his M.F.A in 1996 from Hogeschool voor Wetenschap en Kunst located in Ghent, Belgium, where he worked as a teacher for a couple of years and is now currently living and producing his work (Artnet, n.d.). Borremans is mostly known for his paintings and their unusual and unsettling content that makes one ask more questions, rather than being provided with the answers. He places his characters within a theatrical aesthetic, where they have been captured during a crucial point in their story, which seems more surreal but grounded to the laws of reality.
I was introduced to Micheal Borremans by the same lecturer that introduced me to oil painting around two years ago, from then on I continued to follow him and his work. In fact Borremans is the reason why I became so interested in the concept of ambiguity and how the element of the uncertainty can completely change the physical boundaries of a painting. What I mean by this is, a painting of a realistic nature, can only capture a specific moment in time within the physical boundaries of the canvas, but the element of ambiguity removes those boundaries through the fact that there is something that has happened before or after what you are allowed to see, a story that goes beyond that captured moment which can only be completed by you, the viewer. The genius of Borremans is that he has effortlessly harmonized ambiguity to a realistic style of traditional painting which in some regards is considered to be dead, bringing it back to life and in the Contemporary Art Scene once again.
Below is one of my favourite paintings by the artist titled “The Preservation”, one can identify that a puzzling action has been paused in time, an action which I find to create a tense ambiance. I find the idea of putting, what seems to be, a plastic bag over someones head a bit alarming, as my perception immediately identifies the dangers associated with such an action. Then again the woman seems to be calm….. Her head is down and her eyes are closed, rather than being frightened she’s sitting still, rather submissive. I can’t help but ask who is the other person? And why is she or he placing such an object on her head? Is it to harm her?, or to help her? What has happened before that lead to this, and what is going to happen after the action is done? What is being preserved? Is it her hair? Maybe her head?
As I mentioned before, putting a plastic “bag” on someone head can create quite a few bad connotations. Just by adding an unusual element Borremans manages to create a sense of tension which lures you in and makes you ask questions which might never be answered, or perhaps be answered by all of us who have been enchanted with its mystery. Let’s not forget to pay attention to the incredible level of skill the artist has using oil paint with such fluidity yet conciseness, the skin is rich and fleshy, detailed and loose.
Micheal Borremans, 2001 (image Online). The Preservation. [Oils on canvas].
The painting below titled “The Devil’s Dress” is more recent dating back to 2011. Between the two images one can see the evolution of Borremans painting technique. His brush work is still very fluid, but has become more solid and informed. The content is still unique and makes you raise an eyebrow from inquisitiveness, why is this man lying on the ground? And why is he laying within a cardboard box? Or if asking so many questions is not your cup of tea and you simply accept things as they are visually, appreciating Micheal Borremans refreshing paintings.
Micheal Borremans, 2011 (image Online). The Devil’s Dress. [Oils on canvas]
- Artnet, n.d. Biography. [Online] Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/micha%
C3%ABl-borremans/biography [Accessed 8th May 2017].
- Micheal Borremans, 2001 (image Online). The Preservation. [Oils on canvas] Available at: https://www.apollo-magazine.com/the-modern-mysteries-of-michael-borremans/ [Accessed 8th May 2017].
- Micheal Borremans, 2011 (image Online). The Devil’s Dress. [Oils on canvas] Available at: https://theculturetrip.com/europe/belgium/articles/micha-l-borremans-haunted-canvasses/ [Accessed 8th May 2017].