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Painting Flesh
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2014 is the hundredth anniversary of the start of World War I. Yet, Isabelle Bonzom has long been moved by the French soldier known as the “Poilu” (literally: the hairy one), an emblematic image of the common man drawn into war whose statue often ornates city plazas and squares in France to commemorate the soldiers fallen during World War I.

Since 2012, the artist has painted the Poilu in a series that 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.

She also views this particular statue she paints as vivid and poignant in the neighboring cityscape. Through this subject, she renews a topic that she treated from 1991 to 2002, the flesh.

The entire series of the Poilu painted by Isabelle Bonzom
was presented in Paris during the group show

Sur le front de l'art contemporain

at the Charenton art center Art&Liberté

"Art can be a tool to fight and engage with. A witness to its time, art is a language in itself, a preferred space for experimentation, a sphere of tension and confrontation. As it knocks codes about and pushes limits away, the artist puts himself or herself in danger. From chaos, light sometimes gushes forth. As we commemorate the centennial of World War I, let us think of those who powerfully portrayed the suffering and daily life of the soldiers, of the German expressionists who, marked with a painful disillusion as they faced the disaster, wanted to make war to war. Art can also be a sphere of resistance, a way to look at the world out of the established framework. In that, this exhibition proposes a well chosen group of contemporary artists",
writes curator Frédéric Mette


"This exhibit presents a series that I like very much on the theme of the Poilu (the emblematic soldier of World War I), and more broadly, on a meditation about the evolution of the work of remembrance. Playing with shadows, the many aspects of the color black and various viewpoints, Isabelle Bonzom gently forces us to question our humanity and our perception”,
says art expert Thierry Tessier

"Isabelle Bonzom paints contradictions with emotion. Between the tall and the small, the extraordinary and the ordinary, between History - with a capital H - and the common man. She weaves a thread, between the grand statue and the small human being who fell in combat, between past and present. She questions herself and questions us about the presence of this urban ornament that we have integrated into our daily images. The artist re-creates life in this carapace of representation, in this memory forged, fixed, made of matter, which occupies squares and plazas in the heart of our cities. Let us look very carefully, for we may suddenly perceive a human breathing, a heart pulsating, and we may meet the eyes of those living beings",

explains Valérie Fruaut, deputy mayor in charge of the arts and cultural affairs of the City of Charenton-le-Pont, during the inaugural statement
of the show Sur le Front de l'art contemporain.

In her book Collector published in Seoul, journalist and curator Eunju Park dedicates a 45-page chapter to the impact of art on life. She bases her analysis on the painting of Isabelle Bonzom in which Eunju Park discerns a vital force and a creative abundance. The author views the singular approach of this artist as embodying the constructive and beneficent power of art on the human being.
Eunju Park also interviews a dozen collectors of Isabelle Bonzom's paintings about their reasons for choosing her works and what those paintings bring to them. In this context, Jean-Marie Brétillon, Mayor of Charenton-le-Pont and District Council member of Val de Marne, talks about "Poilu, I - Coup de Grâce" which integrated this public collection :

"The scene described in this painting immediately attracts the viewer by its originality, its power and the very peculiar atmosphere it conveys. Two worlds coexist, albeit so different from each other, or even indifferent to each other. A ray of light bathes the conquering soldier, symbolizing the glorious past, the sacrifice admirably set in majesty by the artist. The nocturnal scenography strengthens the powerful rendering of this warrior. At the same time, there is a gap between the old-fashioned aspect of this patriotic scene and the everyday life which surrounds it with the city, its shops and peaceful activity. Beyond the sperimposition of those two potentially contrasting themes, hasn’t this glorious ancestor’s sacrifice allowed his descendants to live and the city to grow in prosperity and peace?",

wrote Jean-Marie Brétillon, Mayor of Charenton-le-Pont and District Council member of Val de Marne, about "Poilu, I - Coup de Grâce"

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