While a lot of people thought video and photography had demyisified the art of painting, Michaël Borremans was one of the people who persisted in painting in a realistic way. His works make me think of 17th – 19th century masters like Vermeer, Goya and Velázquez, but with a very contemporary twist.
All of his paintings have this exciting tension and breath a mysterious atmosphere. In the beginning, the artist found inspiration in old school books, American comics, pictures from the 30’s, images from a forgotten past… Today he works with models and he himself shoots the photos that form the base material for his paintings.
A Borremans painting is usually modest in size, which is a perfect reflection of the painter’s character.
In my opinion, a combination of five elements create the typical atmoshphere in his art work:
- the usage of dark brownish colors;
- realistic, almost photographic, brushwork;
- unconventional subjects
- original placed light sources
- intended poor framing
With the interaction of those five elements, Borremans creates a bizarre cinematic fantasy world with a gothic aftertaste that reminds me of film noir.
The last years he also creates videos as an extension to his paintings. His videos cannot be compared to the work of other video artists. What makes them original is that, while his paintings are cinematic, his videos look like paintings. Unlike the groteske videos of Bill Viola e.g., they have the same intimicy (in an uncomfortable way) as the paintings. Apart from some rotation, they contain no movement or story line. According to the artist, you don’t have to watch the entire video; you watch it, like you watch a painting: just as long as you like.
You can find the work of Michael Borremans in museums all over the world: New York, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Minneapolis, London, Paris, Jerusalem, Ghent…