La maison rouge presents the first showing in France of the work of Michaël Borremans, a Belgian artist, born in 1963 and who lives and works in Ghent.
The viewer is instantly struck by the technical virtuosity of Michaël Borremans’ works, both his canvas oil paintings and his pencil drawings, watercolours and gouaches, which he sometimes creates on pages taken from old books.
References to the Flemish masters and, to an even greater extent, Manet immediately come to mind. However, the subject matter brings us closer to the present day, or at least to the mid-20th century, with references to illustration, 1940s cinema, and most of all Belgian Surrealism.
Indeed, there is something disquieting in Michaël Borremans’ works. The narrative themes are often dream-related or drawn from the imagination, and the characters hold enigmatic poses as they perform difficult-to-decipher tasks. Meticulous factory workers or small groups of middle-class figures appear just beyond the grasp of a reality that is only suggested by a detail.
Many of his drawings use elements of scale and mise en abîme. The figures seem to be living inside an architect’s model or a theatre decor, observed by some external entity. Texts often accompany the drawings, transforming them into draft sketches or blueprints.
The artist’s scathing sense of humour, the intriguingly strange titles and the technical mastery of the works themselves all give Michaël Borremans a singular status in the contemporary art world.
At la maison rouge, Michaël Borremans shows eight recent paintings in which the patterns of light and shadow, the earthy brown, grey and ochre tones and the subdued brushstrokes all play an essential role. The composition is austere, uncluttered and tightly framed, drawing all the more attention to the absurdity of the human condition in what is, here, a uniquely masculine environment.