Biennale of Sydney

Michaël Borremans

Michaël Borremans, The Bread, 2012, framed 17-inch LCD screen, HD video, 4 mins, continuous loop. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Photograph: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

Michaël Borremans. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Photograph: silversalt photography. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

Michaël Borremans, Central Park, undated, wood, fimo and paint, 30.8 x 23.8 x 10 cm. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Photograph: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

Michaël Borremans, Space Vessel I, 2017 (detail), bronze and paint, 9.2 x 9.04 x 11.3 cm. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Photograph: Zan Wimberley. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

Michaël Borremans

Born 1963 in Geraardsbergen, Belgium
Lives and works in Ghent and Ronse, Belgium


Formally trained across a variety of fields including printmaking and photography, Michaël Borremans came to painting at the comparatively late age of 33 years. He has become known for meticulous paintings rendered with an almost uncanny realism, the subdued tones reflecting a certain quality of light particular to his studios in Belgium. His works encourage active speculation on the part of the viewer, imparting an impression of venturing through the looking-glass and encountering an entirely different state of being on the other side. Borremans describes the medium of painting as a window into another reality; an imaginary world inspired by dreams and memories.

Visibly influenced by the work of artists such as Manet, Goya and Velázquez, Borremans employs a classical style and references art historical genres that are familiar to the viewer, such as portraiture, the nude, and still life. At Artspace, Borremans presents a series of drawings, paintings and sculptural maquettes alongside a film piece titled The Storm, 2006. Articulating the artist’s working process and the various media he uses, the selected works also illustrate an occasional thematic overlap that reveals connections between the drawings, sculptures and paintings.

Imbued with a sense of melancholy, Borremans’ artworks rarely present an obvious storyline or narrative. Rather, they feature unsettling still lifes and ambiguous figures, comprising theatrically surreal vignettes that bring to mind strange rituals or half-remembered dreams. This disconcerting equivocation can be observed in The Storm, which features three men dressed in matching cream-coloured suits seated on chairs in an empty room. The looped footage, just over a minute in length, contains no obvious action; the light flickers and the men wait. Regardless of the medium he chooses to employ, Borremans’ artworks are suggestive constructions instilled with mystery and uncertainty – reflections of a world that exists on another plane of reality in parallel to our own.



Presentation at the 21st Biennale of Sydney was made possible with generous assistance from Pro Helvetia

Exhibited at

Exhibited Artwork

Michaël Borremans, The Bread, 2012, framed 17-inch LCD screen, HD video, 4 mins, continuous loop. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp 

Photograph: silversalt photography

Location: Artspace

Michaël Borremans, The Storm, 2006, single-channel video, 1:07 mins, looped. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp 

Photograph: silversalt photography

Location: Artspace

Michaël Borremans 

Left to right: 

Small Museum for Brave Art I, 2007, wood, cardboard, paint, 10.7 x 29.4 x 15.4 cm

Small Museum for Brave Art III, 2007, wood, cardboard, paint, 10 x 23.6 x 13.3 cm

Small Museum for Brave Art II, 2007, wood, cardboard, paint, 12.5 x 17 x 9.4 cm

Small Museum for Brave Art IV, 2007, wood, cardboard, paint, 11.8 x 15.8 x 10 cm

Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp 

Photograph: Document Photography

Location: Artspace

Michaël Borremans, Central Park, undated, wood, fimo and paint, 30.8 x 23.8 x 10 cm. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp 

Photograph: silversalt photography

Location: Artspace

Michaël Borremans

Clockwise from left: 

Untitled, undated, pencil and watercolour on paper, 22.9 x 29.3 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 10.3 x 16.6 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil and watercolour on paper, 21.5 x 28 cm
Untitled, undated oil on cardboard, 14.8 x 21.9 cm
IT IS A measure, undated, pencil and oil paint on paper, 17.8 x 24.2 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil and watercolour on paper, 21 x 29.5 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil and watercolour on paper, 34.5 x 24.5 cm
Untitled, 2008, pencil and watercolour on paper, 8.0 x 10.6 cm
A Chance to Make it Right, undated, pencil on cardboard, 8.9 x 23.4 cm
Tower, undated, cardboard, wood and paint, 46 x 11.5 x 11.5 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil on cardboard, 16 x 38.5 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil on paper, 21.4 x 14.0 cm
Budapest, undated, pencil on paper, 21.0 x 14.5 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil on cardboard, 21.8 x 15.8 cm
The Faded Dream, undated, pencil and watercolor on paper, 26.8 x 20.6 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 23 x 29.2 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil and watercolour on paper, 24.7 x 28.5 cm
Untitled, undated, watercolour on cardboard, 14.5 x 33.6 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil on paper, 19.0 x 24.5 cm
Untitled, undated, pencil and watercolour on paper, 25 x 20.5 cm
Think or Suck (Design for a monument), 1999, 26 x 21 cm, pencil and watercolour on cardboard

With additional material from the archive of the artist, 1999–2018. Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp

Photograph: silversalt photography

Location: Artspace

Michaël Borremans 

Clockwise from left: 

Untitled, undated, oil on canvas, 40.3 x 30.2 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 14.8 x 21 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on wood panel, 21.9 x 20.2 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on wood panel, 20.5 x 25.5 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 21 x 14.8 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 14.7 x 21 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 19 x 31.4 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 21 x 28 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 14.7 x 21 cm
Untitled, undated, oil on cardboard, 15.5 x 23 cm 

Installation view of the 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018) at Artspace. Courtesy the artist and Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp 

Photograph: silversalt photography

Location: Artspace