Michael Borremans’ drawings, paintings, and films present an evocative combination of solemn-looking characters, unusual close-ups, and unsettling still lifes. There is a theatrical dimension to his works, which are at once highly staged and ambiguous, just as his complex and open-ended scenes lend themselves to conflicting moods—at once nostalgic, darkly comical, disturbing, and grotesque. His paintings display a concentrated dialogue with previous art historical epochs, yet their unconventional compositions and curious narratives defy expectations and lend them an indefinable yet universal character.
Lone figures in pensive or semiconscious states are depicted squarely in the center of the compositions; while their faces are mostly obscured, a psychologically-charged mood prevails. Some are positioned within barren spaces reminiscent of an artist’s studio with planks or canvases arranged against walls, while others are portrayed luminously against dark, monochrome backgrounds. Titles provide simple but uncertain descriptions, which offer little help for unlocking the narratives.
Over the past decade, Borremans’ work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at a number of prominent institutions, most recently in 2011 with the comprehensive solo show Eating the Beard, which was first on view at Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart and traveled to Műcsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest, and Kunsthalle Helsinki. In 2010, he had a solo exhibition at the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo as well as commissioned work on view at the Royal Palace in Brussels. Other solo exhibitions include kestnergesellschaft, Hannover (2009); de Appel Arts Centre, Amsterdam (2007); La maison rouge, Paris (2006); Kunsthalle Bremerhaven, Germany; and the Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (both 2004). In 2005, he had a one-person exhibition of paintings and drawings at the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent. The paintings then traveled to Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London, and The Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, while the drawings traveled to the Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio. Work by the artist is held in numerous public collections internationally, including The Art Institute of Chicago; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; 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 (S.M.A.K.), Ghent; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He lives and works in Ghent.