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Michaël Borremans’ first solo show in Spain on view at Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga
Installation view.

MALAGA.- The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga has organised Michaël Borremans’ first solo show in Spain. Curated by Fernando Francés, Fixture brings together 35 paintings produced in the last decade and a half and offers a window into the artist’s complex personal universe, populated with close-ups of anonymous people and still lifes. Borremans’ work evokes a filmic atmosphere, and indeed cinema is one of his main sources of inspiration, along with photography. The exhibition has been sponsored by the Government of Flanders. The artist lives and works in Ghent (Belgium).

“I don’t see myself as pure painter, but I use the medium because it’s the most suitable for me to create a specific kind of picture.” Such are the words that Michaël Borremans (Belgium, 1963) has used on more than one occasion to explain his profession. The 35 paintings selected for Fixture offer an overview of more than a decade in the Flemish artist’s career. His works are characterised by the use of a dark palette and a small, portrait-like format in which he creates his paintings. With great technical skill and a certain irony, he explores themes like the human figure and the weight of human existence, embodied by loneliness, fear, defects, confusion and tragedy.

As Fernando Francés, director of CAC Málaga, explains, “Borremans is a non-conformist artist with a unique voice that defies easy classification. As spectators we are drawn to his images, and therein lies their immense power. His paintings trap us. There is no need to understand everything, simply to feel it. At the same time his works provoke sensations that can occasionally be quite contradictory, such as uneasiness, fascination, irritation, tranquillity, beauty, sadness, mystery, reality and fantasy. Borremans’ paintings, and his drawings as well, reflect a more surreal vision of the world, while his films—beautiful slow-motion images that he presents as if they were paintings—compel the spectator to consider the philosophical nature of painting and its infinite possibilities, what it represents and symbolises, how it is interpreted and what it means. A very simple image can challenge many things. His works are ambiguous, open, mysterious in some way, intriguing—like a riddle that the visitor has to solve.”

Fixture contains paintings based on photographs that the artist has taken previously. For his canvases, Borremans frequently manipulates photographs from books, magazines or the internet, although he has recently started using models to create scenes which he then photographs and transfers to his paintings. The central theme of his output is an ironic critique of the absurdity of the human condition. His works fluctuate between reality and fantasy, between fascination and irritation.

Borremans confesses to a profound interest in the Baroque as an effective technique: hence the charm he finds in masters of the Spanish Baroque, who often provide him with inspiration. Artists like Velázquez, Goya, Rembrandt and Manet, as well as later artistic movements such as Surrealism, are all present in his discourse. Similarly, most of his works clearly evidence his admiration for photography, a discipline he shared with his grandfather, and his passion for film and directors like David Lynch and Stanley Kubrick. Over time, his work has gradually become more complex and more meticulous in terms of technique, as manifested in his latest paintings.

Borremans finds the ecstasy of concentration in his best suit, which he wears to create his works. His paintings never emerge from a white ground because he uses recycled canvases to create his pictorial scenes.

The use of a small format ties in with the artist’s desire to create a bombshell-like reaction in spectators, drawing us closer to the work so that we can examine the painting in greater detail, compelling us to consider philosophical questions about painting in general and what it represents and symbolises for the works themselves, which have enormous psychological undertones. He juxtaposes intellectually complex concepts that challenge spectators to decipher them. The figures and objects rendered in his works never stare out or look straight ahead and directly at us, creating a mysterious atmosphere through a space that seems ordinary yet at the same time strange.

Focusing on the works themselves, hands are a recurring motif open to multiple interpretations, as observed in Red Hand, Green Hand, 2010, and The Egg IV, 2012. Death is another theme that Borremans explores in his paintings, as in The Preservation, 2001, which could depict a homicide or an enbalming ritual. The artist also includes references to nature, as we see in works like The Branch and Dragonplant, both from 2003.

Michaël Borremans was born in Geraardsbergen (Belgium) in 1963 and studied graphic art and photography at the Sint-Lucas Hogeschool in Ghent. He came to painting later in life and can therefore be considered to be self-taught. He began to gain international acclaim in the 1990s. Today, Michaël Borremans is one of the most outstanding artists on the contemporary scene. His work explores the relationship between proximity and distance, the absurdity of human existence, death, unrest and nature, among other themes.

His most recent exhibitions include As Sweet As It Gets, Dallas Museum of Art (2015); The Advantage, Hara Museum, Tokyo (2014); Magnetics, BAWAG Contemporary, Vienna (2012); Eating the Beard, Helsingin Taidelhalli, Helsinki (2011); Michaël Borremans, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2010); Taking Turns, David Zwinner, New York (2009); Veldwerk, Centro de Artes Visuais, Coimbra (2008); and The Good Ingredients, La Maison Rouge – Fondation Antoine de Galbert, Paris (2006), among others. He has also taken part in numerous group shows, such as The Importance of Being…, Museo de Arte Moderna, Rio de Janeiro (2015); Panopticum, Robert Miller Gallery, New York (2014); BAZAAR België, Centrale for Contemporary Art, Brussels (2013); Drawing from the Modern, 1975-2005, MoMA, New York (2005); and Drawings into 2000, Tim Van Laere Gallery, Antwerp (1999). He lives and works in Ghent (Belgium).

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