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An article by Gabino Kim about Isabelle Bonzom's painting


After her series of male nudes, Isabelle Bonzom has been dedicating for around five years a part of her work to the dramatic and symbolic power of statues in the urban scape. She has painted a series about a statue of the Poilu, the World War I soldier. In that series, the artist pays homage to all human beings affected by war and reflects on the place that a conflict such as World War I occupies today, not only in the urban landscape but also in people’s consciousness. Then, sculptures of male nudes at the Tuileries garden have appeared in new paintings. South Korean art critic and curator Gabino Kim, also art historian expert in theology, gives his insights about a painting of that series, " Tuileries - Samaritan, I".


The Emancipation of colour


"A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead. A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn and cared for him.” (Luke 10,30~34)


The streaming air fluctuates to tangle with two people. Half-dead, stained by injuries, one of them has been raised up by the other. Heaven decides to change the color of His own face. This artwork which is concerned by the sensations of the viewer is "Tuileries - Samaritan, I" by Isabelle Bonzom (1964~). Love and Pain are intertwined in this artwork which, through colours, dissolves them into unconditional love.

Isabelle Bonzom has associated the sensation to the presence of air and has juxtaposed its transparency and opacity. She has preserved as far as possible the essence of the painting, something that the camera cannot imitate. In fact, our field of vision is very wide and allows us to see everything that the camera can’t even transcribe. The working conditions (outside or interior studio, natural light or electric spotlight, effect of shadow and light, chiaroscuro, etc.) have an impact on the result. For instance, the photographer merely chooses whether he or she uses the auto-focus feature in order to capture clearly the moving object. Thus, when we look at a scene, the camera cannot provide the entire range of human emotions. That’s why Isabelle Bonzom has said, in a conversation with art critic Pierre Sterckx, "When I paint, I do not think and I do not feel that painting is dead. It is not a question of erasing or freezing the painting." ( see the full conversation )




The model of this artwork "Tuileries - Samaritan, I" is "Le Bon Samaritain" by French sculptor François-Léon Sicard. Located in the center of Paris, the Tuileries Garden is close to the Louvre Museum, and many tourists come to this place. It is not a coincidence that Bonzom selected the Sicard piece, especially the theme of the Good Samaritan, as she is involved in meditation.

Isabelle Bonzom has stated that "painting is an act of sensation" and "sense is linked to senses." She even views "painting as a living body.” Obviously, her painting has a certain gravity. Her painting is very sanguine and bold, though not expressionist.

Expressionism was concerned with capturing light, shadow and nature. Isabelle Bonzom is not focused on "capturing" the real. We can’t assert where light and shadow are located in her work. She liberates colours in pure and bright tones. Her work is emancipated colour and it creates a shock provoked by the sensations. She opens a different path than the one traced by Francis Bacon.

According to Gilles Deleuze, Bacon’s accomplishment is to have discovered a way to affix on the canvas the "affects", that is to say, "sensations" and "instincts". It acts directly on our nervous system. He has expressed the dark part of human nature, and showed anguish, horror, pleasure, etc. On her side, Isabelle Bonzom also paints sensations, yet the dark part is not convened. She opens the door to go forward to somewhere bright.

Through the emancipation of colour, "Tuileries - Samaritan, I" shakes viewer’s infertile emotions. Her artwork is infused by the haptic sense (cf. Aloïs Riegl) which delivers to the viewers what the eye touches and the hand sees. Artists who make "a good samaritan" story are many: Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Moreau, Giordano, etc. In those artworks, the narrative is contained and retained : viewers can catch "the lesson" easily from them. However, "Tuileries - Samaritan, I" is more postmodern. There is no intention to explain through a certain lesson. Via colour, it directly acts in the viewer’s nervous system and reveals his or her unconditional love which is the core message of the Good Samaritan story.

Isabelle Bonzom is the artist who knows how to deal with emotion and sensation through the painting. She doesn’t merely show "La vie en rose" or Utopia. Sense and senses are intrinsically linked, ie, love and pain as an ambivalence which appears in her canvas. It is the union of opposites, the coincidentia oppositorum (cf. Mircea Eliade). These two paradoxical notions (love and pain) go beyond the initial situation in a crazy way. That is something that we can’t understand because the association of those two opposites is nonsense for a rational mind. This paradox leads us to be attracted to her painting.


Gabino Kim, 2016

Read the original Korean version
& the French version
& the English version in Gabino Kim's blog

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