Michaël Borremans paintings are many things – beautiful, mysterious and magnificently crafted. They speak of a time past, of forgotten wartime civilians and heroic endeavour. Men and women dressed in 1940’s clothes are pictured engaged in meticulous, unknowable tasks, their heads often bowed in concentration.
What the paintings’ protagonists are doing is often unclear– in Trickland (I- Large) a group of women are huddled over the model of a landscape, tending to miniature props. Are they moving objects in a wartime strategy game? We can’t be sure, only their intense concentration is palpable.
Likewise Examination features a couple of workers staring attentively at an unseen object, the man’s hand poised in mid air with what seems to be a scalpel in his hand. Both are dressed in factory clothing, at odds with the delicacy of the implied surgical task. As in many of Borreman’s paintings, the scene takes place in dark nameless rooms, the location and time are indiscernible.
These paintings are a celebration of the craft of painting and it’s ability to resonate in our hearts and minds. Nostalgia and memory are present in the work but it never sinks into a sentimental past, Borremans makes sure of this through the inclusion of unexpected details. Look out for The Saddening for example, where the text of a song from the film Dirty Dancing is written on the surface of a table, or more seriously, the thalidomide detail of the workers in The Lucky Ones.
Michaël Borremans was born in 1963 in Geraardsbergen, Belgium. He lives and works in Ghent and has had solo exhibitions in Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, America and most recently England.
The Performance is the main painting show in the Academy’s summer programme and will include over 25 works borrowed from public and private collections in Europe and the United States. This exhibition which has toured to our colleagues in the Parasol Unit, London and SMAK, Ghent is the first museum exhibition of his work in Ireland.
In collaboration with the Irish Times