Texts by Hans D. Christ and Hans Rudolf Reust

The paintings, drawings, and films of Belgian artist Michaël Borremans (born 1963) seem to suspend humans above the logic of their actions, so that the simplest gesture or movement is emptied of sense and made arbitrary, tense and uneasily beautiful. Sometimes Borremans makes a garment the hero of the work, as in his well-known painting of a young woman with a bow: eye-catching as the subject’s introspective facial expression undoubtedly is, the almost Pop-ish boldness of her bright white bow throws the whole composition into a bizarre tension between moody inwardness and mischievous extroversion rarely seen in contemporary art. 

The title of this first comprehensive overview hints at the submerged streak of wicked Belgian wit throughout Borremans’s oeuvre, and presents the most coherent portrait of the artist to date. It assembles more than 100 works made over the past ten years, showing how motifs and allusions migrate across media, unifying the oeuvre into a singular investigation of atmospherics, humor, and the unexpected communicative possibilities of a restrained palette of beiges, browns and greys. The particular advantage this overview offers is precisely in the presentation of such cross-media unity, also revealing how much each medium verges upon becoming the other (the cinematic qualities of the paintings, the painterliness of the films). With more than 120 color plates, Eating the Beard is the essential Borremans monograph.