Strength, tranquillity, freshness, maturity, sensual, reflecting, savoury, invasive, revealing… These are some of the words that come to mind when attempting to describe the work of Isabelle Bonzom. From paintings to frescoes to wall murals – Isabelle’s art is as living and breathing as you or I. In her compositions, the support is allowed to speak to the medium, and out of that dialogue is born “painting as flesh”.
“Painting as flesh” is not a metaphorical concept. It is about the flesh of the paint, the canvas, the board, or perhaps the wall itself! It is about allowing the grooves of the support to connect physically with the artist, and then the paint, and then the audience. It is a celebration the flesh of nature and things that surround us. Sometimes it is the human flesh, or an actual piece of meat, or a series of smiling faces… Is the smile there because of the face or the medium that immortalises it? It is probably both. Sometimes flesh is nature: after all it is hard to get more organic (and also less organic!) than trees in a park. Paradoxes is what this art is all about.
Isabelle Bonzom is a French-born artist, whose work has been exhibited in museums and art galleries since 1987. Her intelligent, highly intuitive, and multifaceted compositions demand much more than just a glance. And every time a critic writes about Isabelle, their impressions rightly attribute to her depth and maturity of thought, and feeling and breathing life in her work. I love art that asks questions, that makes me look at it over and over again without exhausting its possibilities or its challenges.
Isabelle’s landscapes are filled with contradictions, even ambiguity. The bright mischievous drops of white are only there to deceive. They distract from the depth of colour, volume and strength underneath. These branches are normal branches, like all the other ones I have seen. But they are not. They are branches of fur trees from my childhood tickled by snow, large and fluffy, full of volume and life. They are branches of spring, new growth – a little green, a little red, a little blue. I can see birds among these branches of feathery texture and strange curls. After a while I begin to notice the human figures underneath the trees. Some are running, some walking, one is reading on the grass. They seem insignificant at first glance – yet they are an inseparable part of the scene. Once seen, they cannot be unseen. These figures are a comfort against the dark shadows under the heavy branches: if they are here and they are ok, it is ok for me to be here too. There is violence there. There is comfort too. There is kindness despite the darkness. The more we look, the more we want to see.
Isabelle’s ability to remain receptive to her surroundings is what allows her to use painting as a way of activation. “In painting, sense is linked to the senses,” she says. In her art she establishes connections between concept and space, bringing sensations to the surface. The flux of dense surfaces dominating her work is not as impenetrable as it might first seem. It is, in fact, delicate, mixing texture and substance, and entirely accessible. A kind of a fleshy, invigorating incarnation of the world around us.
My intentions are, notably, to let the support speak. For «Arborescence», I first meditate in front of the virgin wood, then I painted following its veins and I inscribed the touches of colors according to the movements of the wood panel, dancing with the flux of the natural support. It is a real dialogue between the image and its support. I painted a celebration of nature, an arborescence on a wood, it is inherently linked. I intervene with an economy of means in order to let the background speak. Then, the background could be seen as empty, but a positive emptiness. I inscribed an inner spiral within the landscape, a spiral which symbolizes life and boundlessness. The curved composition, the arabesques are created by the drops of paints and the areas of flat and fluid colors. The result gives rhythm and creates a broad breath. [Isabelle Bonzom]
For more on Isabelle’s work visit her website.