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4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale: Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life Ocula Report 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale: Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life 15 Feb 2019 : Natalie King for Ocula

'Poems are like sentences that have taken their clothes off.' Marlene Dumas' poetic and sensual refrain accompanies her figurative watercolours on view in Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life, the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) in the southern state of Kerala, India (12 December 2018–29 March 2019).Dumas' new series...

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Ellen Altfest Ocula Conversation Ellen Altfest

The paintings of Ellen Altfest are ethereal in their detail. Fields of minutiae come together as pulsating images; small brushstrokes of oil paint accumulate over a series of months to single out seemingly innocuous subjects, such as a hand resting atop patterned fabric (The Hand, 2011) or a deep green cactus reaching upwards from beneath a bed of...

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Colomboscope 2019: Cross Currents and Dissonance Ocula Report Colomboscope 2019: Cross Currents and Dissonance 8 Feb 2019 : Nada Raza for Ocula

On the rooftop of the former Rio Hotel complex in Colombo, it was hard to ignore the high-rise buildings, still under construction, blocking all but a sliver of what used to be an open view over Slave Island, once an island on Beira Lake that housed slaves in the 19th century, and now a downtown suburb. The hotel was set alight during the...

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Michaël Borremans

b. 1963, Belgium

For two decades, artist Michaël Borremans has been confounding—and captivating—audiences with his enigmatic paintings. Trained as a draughtsman and engraver at Luca School of Arts in Ghent, followed by several years of photography, it was only after a sabbatical from teaching at the age of 33 that Borremans started to paint. Today, the Belgian painter and filmmaker is one of the most renowned and sought-after contemporary artists of his generation. His moody staged portraits, charged with psychological tension and suspense, are testament to the enduring medium of painting.

Like characters in a Samuel Beckett play the figures inhabiting Borremans' paintings appear to be waiting for something to happen or carrying out activities that are senseless or absurd, often in an anonymous environment bearing little detail. His figures are more like still lifes: posed, passive and frozen in gestures that perplex. Figures are caught in a purgatory of repetitive action, trapped in their solitude in bodies that are restricted, unable to move or, in some cases, incomplete. Absence is both emotional and physical in Borremans' paintings. Heads, fingers and limbs are at times missing—such as the decapitated female figure in The Loan (2011), or the limbless Torso (2009)—like ancient Greek statues. His paintings are like fragments of half-remembered dreams. The faces of Borremans' subjects are concealed or look away from the viewer; in The Virgin (2013), a young girl stands, half-facing the viewer, arms stretched out in supplication, while in The Angel (2013), a tall woman stands in an old-fashioned pale pink dress, looks impassively down, her blonde hair pulled back and her face covered in black paint. In The Devil's Dress (2011)—a painting that references Edouard Manet's Dead Toreador (1864)—a female figure lies on the ground cocooned and obscured in a red polygonal cardboard cylinder, as if lying on a stage.

Indeed, there is as strong a technical and formal foundation to Borremans' paintings that demonstrates a use of and respect for the historical weight of painting. Canvases are loosely painted with brushstrokes that draw attention to themselves in a palette of shadows and earth, lending the works a patina of nostalgia and melancholia. They reference the tradition of Diego Velázquez—an artist Borremans has cited as an influence—and often the violence of Francisco de Goya, like the 'Black Mould' series (2015). In these works, sinister-looking figures with heads shrouded or in black hoods—standing alone or in groups—are frozen like puppets in ritualistic and manic movements, engaging in anal sex or burning limbs. This theatre of grotesquery taps into the collective unconscious' drip feed of symbols and iconography, hinting at religious extremism, Ku Klux Klansmen or the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

The artist uses found images or photographs the scene he wishes to paint, setting up the model, props and background—like Vermeer who used a 'camera obscura'—arranging lighting and composition so that it is painting-ready. Despite their photographic source his works are perhaps more accurately described as unsettling psychological or emotional imprints than figurative paintings, for his figures are neither based wholly in reality nor of this world. The remainder of the painting is carried out intuitively to create scenarios that defy explanation and remain ambiguous, conjuring an atmosphere outside time and outside the linear.

Work by Michaël Borremans is held in public collections internationally, including the Art Institute of Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (SMAK), Ghent; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Borremans lives and works in Ghent.

Diana d'Arenberg | Ocula | 2018
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Featured Artworks

Skirt sculpture by Michaël Borremans contemporary artwork Michaël BorremansSkirt sculpture, 2014 Wool skirt, motor, wood, glass
44.4 x 57 x 37 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Girl with Hands 9 by Michaël Borremans contemporary artwork Michaël BorremansGirl with Hands 9, 2013 Oil on canvas
36 x 30 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Fire from the Sun by Michaël Borremans contemporary artwork Michaël BorremansFire from the Sun, 2017 Oil on cardboard
21 x 14.7 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Lily by Michaël Borremans contemporary artwork Michaël BorremansLily, 2017 Oil on canvas
42.4 x 36.5 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Fire from the Sun by Michaël Borremans contemporary artwork Michaël BorremansFire from the Sun, 2017 Oil on wooden panel
21.9 x 30.8 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Becky by Michaël Borremans contemporary artwork Michaël BorremansBecky, 2017 Oil on canvas
82 x 65 cm
Zeno X Gallery
The Loan by Michaël Borremans contemporary artwork Michaël BorremansThe Loan, 2011 Oil on canvas
310 x 205 cm
Zeno X Gallery
Three Degrees by Michaël Borremans contemporary artwork Michaël BorremansThree Degrees, 2017 Pencil and ink on paper
14.1 x 21.1 cm
Zeno X Gallery

Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, Group Show at Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Closing Soon
23 January–23 February 2019 Group Show Group Show Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, Works On Paper II at Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Closed
7 March–28 April 2018 Group Show Works On Paper II Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp
Contemporary art exhibition, Michaël Borremans, Fire from the Sun at David Zwirner, Hong Kong
Closed
27 January–10 March 2018 Michaël Borremans Fire from the Sun David Zwirner, Hong Kong

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Michaël Borremans Ocula Conversation
In partnership with The 21st Biennale of Sydney
Michaël Borremans Artist

Embarking on a career as a painter relatively late, at the age of 33, Belgian artist Michaël Borremans initially trained as a draughtsman and engraver at Saint Lucas in Ghent. On the occasion of his inaugural exhibition Michaël Borremans: Fire from the Sun at the new David Zwirner space in Hong Kong (27 January–9 March 2018), I spoke with Borremans...

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In Related Press

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Sydney Biennale review – Ai Weiwei anchors rewarding show that comes of age in its 21st year Related Press Sydney Biennale review – Ai Weiwei anchors rewarding show that comes of age in its 21st year The Guardian : 16 March 2018

There is a simple and quiet work by the Belgian artist Michaël Borremans called The Bread (2012) in this year's Biennale of Sydney. It recalls the work of Flemish 15th century portraits, close and intimate, but it's a modern picture too. It's of a girl's upper body, dressed in a blue top, her hands in front, her gaze downwards. I was fairly certain...

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Interview: Artist Michaël Borremans Related Press Interview: Artist Michaël Borremans LUXUO : 6 August 2016

Michaël Borremans is a Belgian artist whose oeuvre is as mesmerising as it is mysterious, and as a human being, as delusional as geniuses get. Sitting down with Art Republik, Borremans tell us that he has a country studio especially for guests, equipped with a wood-fired sauna, and a bathroom, which he proudly designed himself, made of marble and...

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Art Brussels announces details of Discovery, Rediscovery and Solo sections Related Press Art Brussels announces details of Discovery, Rediscovery and Solo sections Art Fix Daily : 9 April 2016

From April 21 to 24, the 34th edition of Art Brussels will take place in a new location, Tour & Taxis, a spectacular example of industrial architecture built in 1904, formerly a customs house. This year, the fair has been reduced in size, bringing together 141 galleries from 28 countries, represented in three main sections: PRIME, DISCOVERY and...

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Best of the Best: Five Booths at Art Basel Hong Kong Related Press Best of the Best: Five Booths at Art Basel Hong Kong Observer : 23 March 2016

This year’s fair features 239 galleries from 35 countries, and presents modern and contemporary art in a full range of media. Although nearly half of the exhibitors are Asia-based galleries, a full 38 galleries in the 2016 edition of the fair are from New York, and in fact four of those galleries—Gagosian Gallery, Lehmann Maupin, Pace...

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