Painted on an intimate scale, the close-up and highly cropped perspective speaks to the influence of cinema on Borremans’ work. Inspired by directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, such an unusual vantage point heightens the sense of uncanny mystery. Borremans explains his interest in perspective - “these days, you can’t help being influenced by film and photography. Those disciplines have had such a far-reaching effect on the way we look at nature and reality. We have become used to seeing within frames. In the past, people had a larger periphery to their gaze” (Michaël Borremans in conversation with Kurt Snoekx: ‘Michaël Borremans: As Sweet as it Gets’, Buzz, February 2014, online). Though populated by mysterious characters plucked from the past, it is here that we discover the modernity of Borremans’ canvases. They speak profoundly to the contemporary visual perspective while all the while challenging notions of truth and the role of the figurative artist as a record of the real.
Speaking on the subject, Borremans explained ““It’s really a philosophical question about what truth can be. And truth is just as much in the lie as in something straightforward or honest … As an adolescent, that’s where my fascination for cinema came in. They build decors; they fake everything to make it seem real. And if they do it with that they do it with everything. To have it is to use it … So therefore in my work I want to give information in a way that’s clearly incorrect, not fitting, out of place. I think that’s more honest” (Michaël Borremans cited in: Michaël Herbert, ‘Michaël Borremans’, Art Review Asia, May 2015, online)
With his canvases, Borremans presents viewers with glimpses of alternate yet similar realities, focussing on incongruous situations that are sealed off, silent, and mysterious to viewers. Their purposeful ambiguity forces viewers to explore their own subjective interpretation of the depicted scenes. A master of ambiguity, Borremans revels in never closing the pictorial circle – leaving narrative tantalisingly open-ended. In doing this, Borreman’s “never lets you forget that you are looking at a painting” (Ibid.). This post-modern preoccupation with revealing the substructure of painting itself sits at the heart of Borreman’s work. To look at a Borremans canvas is to first revel in the skill of one of the greatest contemporary draughtsmen and painters working today, yet on further inspection they masterfully speak to the act of painting itself, and perhaps more importantly, the place of truth within an increasingly post-truth world.
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