Contemporary Belgian painter Michael Boreman uses pictures as reference material for paintings that depict disturbing surreal imagery.His fluid brushwork and choice of frightening subject matter have earned him comparisons to David Lynch, as well as Edouard Manet and Francisco Goya. In this piece, I’ll talk about how Boreman challenges the viewer’s brain with his paintings by strategically manipulating light and shadow.
Michael Boreman innovative approach to painting
Michael Boreman distinctive painting technique combines high levels of artistic skill with complex themes that defy straightforward interpretation. His pieces generally begin with photographs as inspiration, but he makes extensive alterations to them, imbuing them with new meanings and stories. His pieces are often on the smaller side, but they are dense with intricate detail. In order to create contrast, depth, and mystery in his compositions, he strategically uses light and shadow. His settings are oblique and unpleasant on purpose so that we may ponder their significance.
Some of his published works are:
- In the forthcoming film The Double (2022), one man silently watches another man hold a severed head that resembles his own. The artwork explores themes of identity, duality, and violence through the uncanny resemblance between the artist and his subject.
- Many businesspeople in the 2013 film The Advantage gather around a black object on a table. The intensity and mystery of the artwork are enhanced by the contrast between the black object and the dazzling light that lights the countryside.
- During one scene in the 2003 film The Angel, a young girl in a white dress sleeps soundly on a bed with her eyes closed. Since the girl’s face is obscured by a shadow, the image both suggests something sinister or tragic and alludes to a state of innocence, purity, and vulnerability.
Michael Boreman exploration of universal themes
Boreman’s perennial themes include self-identity, authority, violence, and mortality. He regularly depicts people, yet they appear chilly, lonely, or even dehumanised. He comments on the viewer’s own thoughts and ideals through the interplay of light and dark. His aggressive and hilarious statements reflect his caustic and cynical outlook of society.
His published works include:
- In the 2009 film Eating the Beard, a guy literally eats his beard off a plate. The artwork speaks to the distinction between civilised and primitive, as well as a sense of folly, contempt, and self-destruction.
- Black Mould (2015) is a series of paintings featuring masked characters with black patches on their faces. The paintings highlight the disjunction between the individual and the collective, as well as a sense of danger, disease, and oppression.
- Children are portrayed dealing with fire in a sequence of paintings in the exhibition Fire from the Sun (2018). The paintings convey both awe and creativity typical of young children, as well as a sense of danger, devastation, and chaos.
Boreman’s comparison with his films
When comparing Michael Boreman films, which are also centred on photorealistic pictures but have nothing in the way of narrative development or forward momentum4, it’s easy to see the parallels. In 2006, he began utilising digital cameras and editing tools to create short films. Typically, his films are ponderous, image-heavy assemblages with little in the way of narrative forward momentum. Sometimes the figures just sit in a circle, perhaps in deep thought or appearing completely motionless; the gestures are almost impossible to make out. The use of light and dark in his videos raises questions about the viewer’s perception of reality and logic. His stories move slowly and have a ghostly quality, which adds a layer of mystery.
Some examples of his films are:
- The Storm is a 2006 film in which a group of people sit silently at a table as a storm rages outside. The video successfully conveys a sense of dread, solitude, and expectation, as well as the dissonance between one’s inner peace and the external chaos.
- A man slices bread in the 2012 film The Bread, while another man watches. The picture creates a contrast between the everyday and the magnificent, as well as a sense of weariness, repetition, and futility.
- A man spins a wheel covered in various symbols in the 2015 film The Wheel. Curiosity, a sense of fate and chance, and a contrast between the logical and the illogical are all stoked by this picture.
To sum up, Michael Boreman paints with light to produce spectacular visual effects that engage the observer in a mentally taxing encounter. Both his paintings and his films are based on photorealistic imagery, but he alters them in subtle and extreme ways to convey new meanings and tell new stories. Light and shadow play an important role in his compositions, helping to establish contrast, depth, and mystery while also conveying mood, emotion, and symbolism.
He probes deep into topics like self-identity, authority, violence, and death that have always been topical, and he uses irony and startling remarks to test the viewer’s preconceived notions and moral compass. He defies easy labelling or conventional analysis, making him a really unique and important figure in the modern art world.
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