For nearly two decades, Belgian artist Michaël Borremans has created an ambitious and mesmerizing oeuvre that continues to simultaneously fascinate and unsettle viewers. As the art critic Laura Cumming writes in The Observer, “Borremans’s gift is for snaring you, enthralling you with all sorts of characters, strange scenarios and possibilities.” His works display a concentrated dialogue with previous art historical epochs, yet their unconventional compositions and curious narratives defy expectations and lend them an indefinable character. Painting has remained central in his pursuit to construct a deceptively simple visual world where figures often seem to elude the passage of time.
Michaël Borremans: Black Mould documents the artist’s first exhibition at David Zwirner, London in 2015 and his first solo presentation in the city in ten years. This intimately scaled catalogue, which has been designed by the artist in collaboration with Kim Beirnaert, includes thirty-two small- and large-scale paintings from his new series, most of which feature anonymous, black‐robed characters. Alone or in groups, they perform mysterious acts within monochromatic spaces reminiscent of an artist’s barren studio. Seemingly behaving according to a symbolic language of their own, they pose alone or interact in communal dances, with some figures holding torches and others exposed naked from the waist down. Their facelessness opens up ambiguous narrative possibilities, like empty canvases with which to construct meaning. Like archetypes capable of embodying shifting meanings, the blank figures become a mold for the human condition, at once satirical, tragic, humorous, and above all, contradictory.
From top: Michaël Borremans, Black Mould / The Badger's Song II, 2015