Human Being / Being Human

Michael Barremans

Michaël Borremans (born in 1963) is a Belgian painter and filmmaker who lives and works in Ghent. His painting technique draws on 18th-century art as well as the works of Édouard Manet and Degas. The artist also cites the Spanish court painter Diego Velázquez as an important influence. His earlier drawings, many of which belong to the collection of fellow painter Jan Van Imschoot, are often used as a basis for his later paintings. In recent years, he has been using photographs he has made himself or made to order sculptures as the basis for his paintings.

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Red Hand, Green Hand, 2010, 40x 60cm, oil on canvas

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Red Hand, Green Hand (2010) shows two hands engaged in what might be some kind of necromantic divination. The painted hands place the psychic séance’s magically charged gesture at an unbridgeable remove. The sense of familiarity and intimacy gives way to an intense disturbance.

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Wim Delvoye

Wim Delvoye (born 1965 in Wervik, West Flanders) is a Belgian neo-conceptual artist known for his inventive and often shocking projects. Much of his work is focused on the body. He repeatedly links the attractive with the repulsive, creating work that holds within it inherent contradictions- one does not know whether to stare, be seduced, or to look away. As Robert Enright wrote in Border Crossings, "Delvoye is involved in a way of making art that reorients our understanding of how beauty can be created". Wim Delvoye has an eclectic oeuvre, exposing his interest in a range of themes, from bodily function, to the Catholic Church, and numerous subjects in between. He lives and works in Belgium, but recently moved to China after a court of law judged his pig tattoo art projects illegal.

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Tattoed Pig, 1997

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Marc Quinn

Marc Quinn (born 8 January 1964) is a British sculptor and visual artist. He is a member of the loose group known as the Young British Artists. He is better known for Alison Lapper Pregnant, a sculpture of Alison Lapper which has been installed on the fourth plinth at Trafalgar Square, Self, a sculpture of his head made with his own frozen blood, and Garden (2000). Quinn has used, not only conventional sculpture material, but also blood, ice and faeces; his work sometimes refers to scientific developments. Quinn's oeuvre displays a preoccupation with the mutability of the body and the dualisms that define human life—spiritual and physical, surface and depth, cerebral and sexual.

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“Self” (ongoing project) - 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006

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"Self" is a frozen sculpture of the artist's head made from 4.5 litres of his own blood, taken from his body over a period of five months, the first of which was made in 1991. Described by Quinn as a "frozen moment on lifesupport", the work is carefully maintained in a refrigeration unit, reminding the viewer of the fragility of existence. Quinn makes a new version of Self every five years, each of which documents Quinn’s own aging and physical deterioration.

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Mother and Child, 2001—2003 Mixed media 24 x 36 x 89 cm

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Four Fairies, 2003, 110 x 150 cm, oil on canvas

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“the pig would literally grow in value,"both in a physical and economic sense

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Delvoye’s equally controversial project was his tattooed pigs. Delvoye started tattooing the skin of dead pigs in the early 1990s, but it was not until 1997 that the artist began to use live pigs as a canvas. In 2004, he bought a farm in a little village near Beijing where he systematically elaborated the artistic concept for his Art Farm. There, the pigs grow up while a team of specialists looks after them. Assistants, veterinarians, and, of course, Delvoye himself, sedate the piglets, shave their skin, tattoo them, keep the wounds clean and their skin properly moisturised.

The tattoos themselves are based on Delavoye’s drawings, most of which refer to Western iconography. From popular biker symbols such as hearts and skulls, to Disney princesses, the Louis Vuitton monogram and religious images, Delvoye ‘mixes antagonist elements in order to create an impact and make people feel uncomfortable.’ By placing the motives on pigskin, the artist takes away their message and purpose. They become pure decorum, their only intent is to shock and be beautiful. Delvoye declared in an interview with Claire Naa in 2007: ‘When visitors turn around the pigs, observe it, I am happy. I feel like I‘ve given them back their dignity’.

In many cultures, pigs are associated with negative characteristics such as dirtiness or even gluttony and greed. However, Delvoye can’t help but compare the nudity, the texture and the colour of pigskin to human skin.

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Sky, 2006, Human placenta and umbilical cord, stainless steel, perspex and refrigeration equipment, 205 x 65 x 65 cm

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A similar piece of his sculptural work is called “Sky” made out of his son’s umbilical cord and placenta.

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Ron Mueck

Ron Mueck (born 1958, Melbourne) is an Australian Hyperrealism sculptor working in the United Kingdom.  Originally from Australia, he was a model maker and puppeteer for children’s’ television and films before adapting those skills to sculpting. 

 

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A girl, 2006 Mixed media 110.5 x 501 x 134.5 cm

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In Bed, 2011

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Made from memory, the sculpture became as much the focus for a strong emotional involvement as it was a mere object treated with Mueck's rigorous eye for detail. As the artist explained, the miniaturised representation proved a more emotionally involving depiction of death by compelling the beholder to ‘cradle' the corpse visually. Mueck sculpts in clay, makes a plaster mould around it and finally replaces the clay with a mixture of fibreglass, silicone and resin; the technical skill involved has often been foregrounded by critics to the detriment of its content.

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Spooning couple, 2005 Mixed media 14 x 65 x 35 cm

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