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Michaël Borremans: Fire from the Sun (Spotlight)

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This is a set or a stage, devoid of context, withholding of answers, but suggestive of a director or someone watching.

From the outset the artist understood he was taking a risk with the new works, precisely because of their open relationship with interpretation. 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. But even if the paintings deceptively represent a vacuum (lack of context, setting, explanation), they are not made in one. While the fire and (probable) cannibalism imply some sort of ritual, the works are most chilling as sketches of random violence, causal and instinctual. His recent publications include The Rise of David Bowie 1972–1973 (Taschen, 2016), Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work (National Gallery, 2010), and a short story, The Way Ahead (Sternberg Press, Berlin, 2018).Previous solo exhibitions at the gallery include Black Mould (London, 2015) The Devil’s Dress (New York, 2011), Taking Turns (New York, 2009), Horse Hunting (New York, 2006), and Trickland (New York, 2003). 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.

Michaël Borremans combine horror and innocence in this young children, becoming allegories of the human condition. On the occasion of his inaugural exhibition Michaël Borremans: Fire from the Sun at the new David Zwirner space in Hong Kong (27 January–9 March 2018), I spoke with Borremans about his practice and his participation in the Biennale of Sydney (BoS) (16 March–11 June 2018). The drama of the paintings is heightened by their visual connection to each other—and, more broadly, to older works by Borremans. They are untethered, directionless, forever waiting in a non-place, forever forced to repeat pointless actions that seem to have no beginning or no end. 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).

Reminiscent of cherubs in Renaissance paintings, the toddlers appear as allegories of the human condition, their archetypal innocence contrasted with their suggested deviousness. Michaël Borremans: The Advantage, the artist’s first museum solo show in Japan, was also on view in 2014 at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. These images are not outliers: they are set against that same backdrop and clearly part of the fragments that we are meant to piece together. A major museum survey, Michaël Borremans: As sweet as it gets, which included one hundred works from the past two decades, was on view at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 2014.

A major museum survey, Michaël Borremans: As sweet as it gets, which included one hundred works from two decades, was on view at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 2014. This year at the opening of his solo exhibition, Fire from the Sun, the inaugural show at David Zwirner’s new gallery in Hong Kong, Borremans was likewise satisfied.Most recently, Michaël Borremans: Fixture, was presented at the Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga in 2015-2016.

In 2010, he had a solo exhibition at the Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo, as well as commissioned work on view at the Royal Palace in Brussels. Fire from the Sun sits cozily—bloodily, cleverly—on the art history couch next to Goya and Francis Bacon, but the exhibition is not an exercise in appropriation or a closed circuit of art talking to art. These ghostly figments remind us of the artist’s hand (another detached extremity) and its control over what we see and what we don’t.The general opening was likewise packed—crammed, stuffed—no doubt with people from different starting points. To finish on a lighter note, David Zwirner’s first outpost in Asia will located in H Queen’s, the new tower in Hong Kong’s Central district. Michaël Borremans's innovative approach to painting combines technical mastery with subject matter that defies straightforward interpretation. In some of the paintings the children are in the process of disappearing: phantom bodies not quite removed from their gruesome acts.

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