Text by Jeffrey Grove
Bathing his subjects in an austere light, and rendering them with strong, confident brushwork, Michaël Borremans executes paintings that seduce and hold at bay, keeping the history of art in dialogue while committing wholly to the iconography of our time. The protagonists of these works, derived from pictures in magazines or scientific books, are captured while engaging in activities whose exact nature seems both mundane and mysterious ("they're just sitting there breathing," Borremans told an interviewer), but the artist manages to freight these protagonists, and the air around them, with great emotional tension. Similarly, his apparently sober palette of beiges, browns, and greys sometimes gives way to a small flourish of brighter color--a white bow or a ruddy-cheeked face--that breaks into and energizes the whole image. Such sleights of hand, by which paint discreetly but completely incarnates mood, are the crux of Borremans's art, and are what makes him one of the finest contemporary painters in Europe, an heir to the suspended enigmas of Manet and Velazquez and the indoor atmospherics of Chardin and Vermeer. This volume, with its engaging essay by Jeffrey Grove and abundance of color plates, is the first to present all of Borremans's paintings, and thus constitutes the standard survey of his significant accomplishments.