ProvenanceGal. 't Scoon Huys, Britselei Antwerp, acquired there by the father of the present owner ca. 1995
Michaël Borremans - La tentation de l'esprit humaine (1991)
A chaos of scratches, smudges and stains unveil a tangled group of people around a table. They discuss what is going on on the table top. The scene looks vaguely familiar, but at the same time alienating and illogical. Tiny, modern cars in the midst of a 19th-century bourgeois scenery? The anachronism disconnects the scene from time and space. Moreover, the seriousness of the figures does not correspond to the character they represent. Children, maids and servants normally do other things. Only the portrait at the top seems in place. The lady's clear eyes fall upon us. We have been caught. And are saddled with an uncomfortable feeling.
The strangeness of the scene is fascinating. The small size imposes its compelling power on us, forcing us to get closer and have a better look at what seems blurry at first. The nervousness of the technique emphasizes the gloominess, which becomes less and less defined towards the margin. Strange creatures emerge from the edges of what is perceptible. A demon, a little monster, an angel try to exert their powers on the central characters. A car hovers by. Doesn't the shadow of its wing look more like a devil's horn?
Borremans created a crack in reality through which we are offered a forbidden view into an obscure dimension. The scene is like a black, swelling cloud of smoke threatening to absorb the white sheet with its dark energy. Moreover, the cloud seems to rise from the smoldering debris of an undefined event. It is fate controlled by the manipulative gang above. In other words, the challenges of the human spirit, which Borremans also recognizes as an artist: "You start by drawing on a sheet of paper and then create an entire universe in which you can play God. In fact, I'm hungry for power. Fortunately I became an artist and things didn't turn out badly".