The scenarios composed by Borremans in his pictures, which are frequently small-format and intimate, hark back to positions and genres from art history as well as to the pictorial languages of photography, theater, or cinema. They are teeming with contrary references and allusions that offer the viewer a multitude of possible interpretations while avoiding any manner of consolidation into a coherent whole. Realism and the fantastic the transient and the manifest, irony and disturbance are all closely interwoven within his visual worlds while simultaneously precluding one another.
In his works, Borremans traces the contradictions and conflicts of human existence: between self-assertion and dissolution, the individual and the collective, desire and angst, control and loss, the moral and the abysmal. Being shown are illusions of identity, freedom, and the controllability of the world, which the artist presents to us with its wealth of instability.
The paradoxical pictorial spaces of his drawings are permeated by contrary perspectives and proportions, by formations and deformations, reality and scenery. They show model worlds which emerge as an image within the image while being observed by giant spectators or depict people who are immersed in the acts modeling and constructing or in peculiar experiments. Museum, theater, or public spaces are negotiated as showplaces in which the positions of the observer and the observed are continually shifting, in which exhibitions, performances, or monuments are much too large to be adequately viewed by the miniscule onlookers. Again and again things end up bypassing each other. Other drawings in turn seem to reflect storyboards for films, drafts of stage design or projects for public space, addressing rather the conceivable than the realizable.
In contrast with the frequently busy scenarios found in his drawings, Borremans’ paintings all resemble still lifes, though they in fact are showing, in most cases, human figures from varying angles: isolated beings who establish a relationship neither to their pictorial surroundings nor to the viewer; body fragments or their shells; strange hybrids between people and furniture or other objects. The characters appear disengaged from all temporal or spatial contexts. At the same time, they execute gestures or actions’at times banal, meaningful, or absurd’the backgrounds and consequences of which remaining completely ambiguous. Others, in turn, allude to corpses laid out for view, appearing as objects in vitrines, their veiled faces reminiscent of death masks. Repeatedly, Borremans focuses on the body immobilized by the image, thereby referencing the foundation for the Western body image starting in Renaissance times: anatomy. In The Nude (2010), one of his recent large-format paintings, this reference is explicitly clear.
Borremans’ drawings, paintings, and filmic works are strongly interlinked, but without dealing merely with formal ‘translations’ between the mediums, or with geneses among ‘draft,’ ‘preliminary study,’ and ‘finished work.’ Instead, he probes the margins of the various mediums. In fact, his filmic works also emanate a feel of the still life, in which there seldom seems to be any activity going on’at least if we encounter them with the customary expectations of film images and filmic narration. The minimal actions of the protagonists seem to be mechanical, almost as a reference to the filmic apparatus itself, whose illusionary effects are concurrently reversed.
The exhibition is to be accompanied by a catalogue published by Hatje Cantz Verlag. Following the presentation at the Württembergischer Kunstverein, it will travel to the Kunsthalle Budapest (Mucsarnok).