Visual research: Michael Borremans (b.1963) – usage of limited colour palette

Another contempory artist my tutor suggested me to look at is the Belgium artist and film maker Michaël Borremans (b.1963) as he is using quite a limited colour palette. As observed during my last assignment I tended to use too much pure and bright colours. I experienced that drawings with a reduced number of colours do not restrict me in my approach or markings. Over the last exercises I felt even a stronger link towards more monochrome or reduced colour palette drawing – besides pure black/white.

From Borremans works I am quite attracted to his more close up views. This reminds me of my tutor’s comment that a reduced view with more abstract markings can be of similar if not at times of stronger appeal than a purely representational work (see my additional work after assignment 3)

  • ‘The Load (II)’, 2009
    Oil on canvas (36.2 x 41.9 cm)
    [Online image] New York/London: David Zwirner Gallery. Available from: [accessed 15 August 2015]
    => focus on folds and with reddish colour for the face alongside a dark shadow and a yellowish highlight (shawl?) around the neck – that what makes this work simple but also fascinating as it raises questions about a story.
  • Sleeper‘, 2007-8
    Oil on canvas (40.0 x 50.0 cm)
    [Online image] Private collection. Available from: [accessed 15 August 2015]
    => This work reminds me of Peter Paul Rubens and his drawings of his son. Great the visual effect of the realistic depiction of the head (although with some expressive strokes) in stark contrast to the flat surrounding, painted, the body very slightly highlighted. Quite a fascinating work that appeals by it simplification and its boldness.
  • ‘One at the Time’, 2003
    Oil on canvas (85 x 100 cm)
    [Online image] New York/London: David Zwirner Gallery. Available from: [accessed 15 August 2015]
    => another work that fascinates me due its rather whitish colour with bold contrasts. Rather expressive marks for the folds of the clothes, the walls with a ‘washed’ effect and a certain serenity around the whole picture. I think that Borremans applied the ‘third’ colour (brownish) besides back and white to create this speficis atmosphere

Altogether Borremans plays with light and shadow and his selective use of colour just adds to quite representational works but with a unique twist that keeps his work apart from other representational artists.


  • Using colour selectively alongside expressive markings and rather tonal washes can support quite strong a certain atmosphere. Simplification helps to focus on key messages.
  • Playing with light and shadows does keep a work interesting and the viewer’s eye attracted to the picture.

I will see how I can incorporate Borreman’s approach in my own works. More food for thought.



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