Two hundred and twenty one

The Nude

2010 by Michael Borremans
Frieze 2010; Zeno X Gallery, Belgium

Belgium’s Zeno X Gallery had a cube of painterly display that provided an ease of nostalgia on the eyes from the determined contemporary edge of Frieze 2010. Many of the paintings were portraits, faithfully taking the subject and interpreting it through the thoughtful medium of paint – thoughtful in painting’s more traditional sense of contemplation through the eyes of atmosphere rather that stylistic distortion. Borremans’s work very much adheres to this style; his painting is realist yet emotionally provoking in the soft and painterly way subject and matter are applied to the canvas. Borremans paints skin with all the satisfaction of the subtlety of traditional fleshy tones – they are almost renaissance like – pale translucence flushed with pinks and yellows, contours growing dark in shadow. There is a liveliness, an energy, to this body that, though lying like a corpse, betrays its vitality through the ever-changing colours of skin. This is made particularly poignant with the contrast of the figure to the darkness beyond – it lies illuminated on the basest of backgrounds, celebrated with nothing to distract. The perspective is also a source of this painting’s powerful hold; we look from the head up to the feet as body is tipped toward us, limbs slightly splayed. It is a pose of calm that gains its energy through its angled and provocative viewpoint. The face is blurred in a wavering of sight as we are to concentrate instead on the protruding bones of the ribs and hip – these provide the harsh lines of detail while the face and its possibility of expression melts. Borremans’s The Nude is a marrying of traditional expectation and provoking intrigue – death mixed with beauty and a base sterility mixed with the magnificence of bare skin.

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