Michael Borremans’ Paintings
Michael Borremans is a painter whose technique is partially indebted to the 18th century, but whose psychology of subject matter and sense of context is far more modern. He makes use of old and new discoveries, both in art as well as in other arenas, such as cinema.
The French painter Degas was interested in the exciting compositional techniques being carried out by photographers and filmmakers, who in his day were just beginning to find their feet. Borremans shares Degas’ passion for compositional experimentation inspired by the filmmakers, but makes use of a far wider knowledge, one that has accumulated and accelerated over the course of the last hundred years. And whilst his technique has traces of Velasquez, it is glossed by the discoveries, the innovations, and the experiments undertaken by artists in the intervening years since the Spaniard’s death.
Borremans has also perfected another Degas conundrum – that of how to adequately depict movement. His figures, either in quiet contemplation or in the process of acting, are always doing something; sometimes they are at rest, thinking, whilst at others their shapes blur, as their motion, like in a photograph, is captured with consummate skill and ease by the painter. But it is the figures who are always acting that brings a narrative framework to Borremans’ oeuvre, one which has led critics to term a large body of his work cinematic.
This penchant for storytelling is occasionally dressed-up with the fantasy of surrealism; but this fantasy is one laced with a morbidity that can be traced to the underlying theme of Borreman’s work, one that is at one moment psychological and at another moment political – and occasionally both at the same time. There is, indeed, a very real, very haunting political undercurrent that pervades his work, one that creates a palpable sense of espionage, treachery, and dread.Some of Borremans’ figures are on the verge of performing some sort of abhorrent self-mutilation, whilst others are disfigured. But there is no evident physical pain or discomfort to this disfiguration; in Borremans’ world, the pain is always psychological, always inner.