David Zwirner’s new space at H Queen’s, Hong Kong opens with an exhibition of Michaeël Borremans.

New paintings by artist Michaeël Borremans capture scenes of toddlers with dark overtones, as well as enigmatic machines which add to the air of mystery. The exhibition is the Belgian artist’s first solo show in Hong Kong and celebrates the opening of David Zwirner’s new Hong Kong space.

Jennifer Yum, David Zwirner, Leo Xu. Image courtesy David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong. Photo: Anna Bauer.

Jennifer Yum, David Zwirner, Leo Xu. Image courtesy David Zwirner, New York, London, Hong Kong. Photo: Anna Bauer.

Speaking about his plans, he continues:

I am especially excited that our celebration falls in a month where we are both looking back at the history of the gallery, as well as towards the future. In just a few weeks, on January 27th, we will open our new gallery in Hong Kong with an exhibition of paintings by Michaël Borremans, and earlier this week we announced our plans for a new gallery building on West 21st Street, here in Chelsea, designed by Renzo Piano.

David Zwirner’s Hong Kong location is co-directed by Leo Xu, who founded the gallery Leo Xu Projects in 2011 in Shanghai, and Jennifer Yum, who served as the former Vice President and Head of Morning Day Sales in the Post-War and Contemporary Art department at Christie’s New York.

Michael Borremans, "Fire from the Sun", David Zwirner Hong Kong, 2018. Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Michael Borremans, “Fire from the Sun”, David Zwirner Hong Kong, 2018. Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Painting psychology

Michaël Borremans (b. 1963 in Geraardsbergen, Belgium) received his MFA from Hogeschool voorWetenschap en Kunst, Campus St. Lucas, in Ghent, in 1996. He is known for his enigmatic depictions of universal themes and contemporary subject matter, which combine the painting techniques of Old Masters and mysterious psychological states.

His work has been exhibited widely and internationally, including at Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga, Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo and Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio.

Michaël Borremans, 'Fire from the Sun', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.

Michaël Borremans, ‘Fire from the Sun’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.

Anarchy

In the catalogue published by David Zwirner Books, which accompanies the exhibition in Hong Kong, British art critic, curator and cultural historian Michael Bracewell writes in his new essay:

[…] the scenes depicted by the majority of the paintings comprising Fire From The Sun show a state of being or society in which the primal in uncontrolled, without bearings, in a state of anarchythe‘Id’ of Freudian primary process run riot, with no Ego to mediate between instinctual behavior and ‘reality’.

The ambiguous context of children who display shockingly cruel animalistic gestures appears in a majority of paintings in the exhibition, prompting the viewer to reflect upon social constructs and how human behaviour is regulated.

Michaël Borremans, 'Fire from the Sun', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.

Michaël Borremans, ‘Fire from the Sun’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner.

Innocence and Primal Violence

In the exhibition, small- and large-scale paintings of children are displayed. These toddlers are nude and smeared with what seems to be blood all over their bodies. Without the presence of adults, these children do not conform to the expectations of society and are portrayed as engaging in violent acts. The scenes seem to be frozen in time, and the simplicity of the earth-tone backdrop hints at primitive locations as the setting. Contrary to the typical association of children with innocence, the characters in the artist’s paintings seem to have lost the sense of morality, and are playing with gory, dismembered body parts. The warm yellow light, which hits the blonde hair and fair skin of the toddlers, heightens the theatricality of the scene.

Michael Borremans, "Fire from the Sun", David Zwirner Hong Kong, 2018. Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Michael Borremans, “Fire from the Sun”, David Zwirner Hong Kong, 2018. Image courtesy the artist and David Zwirner. Photo: Kitmin Lee.

Machines

Juxtaposed against the dynamic paintings of children in action are still images of machines. These machines are not immediately recognisable, and recall scientific equipment for unknown functions. It is as though the uncontrolled toddlers are situated in an experiment, which form a dialogue with these inhuman machines. Perhaps both share the ability to inflict cold, brutal violence devoid of sympathy. On the exhibition, critic Bracewell comments:

The pictorial disjunction between these cold, dormant scientific instruments, and the intent, absorbed, enquiring infants, may also create an associative dialogue between them: that the little children and the machines share a sensibilityan aesthetic brutality perhaps, articulating enigma and disquiet.

Valencia Tong

1804

Michaël Borremans: Fire from the Sun” is on view from 27 January to 10 March 2018 at David Zwirner, 5-6/F, H Queen’s, 80 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong.

Related Topics: European artists, painting, gallery shows, features

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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