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Michaël Borremans: Fire from the Sun (Spotlight)

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In his accompanying essay, critic and curator Michael Bracewell takes an in-depth look into specific paintings, tackling both the highly charged subject matter and the masterly command of the medium.

There is an atmosphere of brewing tension and anxiety with an undertow of horror tugging away beneath the surface in his paintings: with his paintbrush Borremans brings to life a cargo of existentialism.K.), Ghent (2005; traveled to Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London; and the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin); Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio (2005); Kunsthalle Bremerhaven, Germany (2004); and Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel (both 2004). Other paintings in the exhibition depict obscure machines, whose enigmatic presence appears foreboding in the context of the toddlers and suggests an element of scientific experimentation.

While the fire and (probable) cannibalism imply some sort of ritual, the works are most chilling as sketches of random violence, causal and instinctual.Like Red Hand, Green Hand, this exhibition has an intuitive relevance to the time in which it was created and the circumstances in which it first exhibited. He has since written extensively on modern and contemporary art and culture, and is a contributor to Burlington and frieze magazines.

In 2011, Michaël Borremans: Eating the Beard, a comprehensive solo show was presented at the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, and traveled to the Mu´´csarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest and the Kunsthalle Helsinki. The image was widely interpreted as a symbol of Hungary’s political circumstance and even showed up on a large banner promoting the show. David Zwirner presents an exhibition of new paintings by Michaël Borremans, inaugurating the gallery’s space in Hong Kong. Michaël Borremans combine horror and innocence in this young children, becoming allegories of the human condition.In some of the paintings the children are in the process of disappearing: phantom bodies not quite removed from their gruesome acts. As Michael Bracewell argues in new scholarship on the artist, published in the accompanying exhibition catalogue, viewers are “caught in a strange time loop, in which the nobility of execution ascribed to Old Masters―the re-creation in painting of human presence, caught both stilled, in a particular instant of its being, and for eternity―is placed in the service of vertiginous modernist vision. Fire from the Sun includes small- and large-scale works that feature toddlers engaged in playful but mysterious acts with sinister overtones and insinuations of violence.

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