Isabel D – Turning Trauma into Beauty

Isabel D – Turning Trauma into Beauty

Isabelle. D’s work is a woven, crocheted, unravelled work. As is often the case with textile works, in it we feel the time in an ineluctably acute way. The time it took to produce each of these stitches. And as often with textile works, in it we can feel the body of the artist in a remarkably persistent way. The agile fingers it took to weave each of these threads. It is all the spice of Isabelle. D’s work; the foam of a full- overfull working time, where just what is needed to suit this human being who doesn’t cease working. The exhibition is a chromatic tide, a wave, especially purplish, which dilutes into pastel particles, unfurls, dies away. It is a blue in the sense of a bruise. The result of a daily, persistent and curative practice.

Isabelle. D grew up in Algeria. She has a French-Algerian maternal grandfather. An “exploited-cultivator” grandfather, she says. She also says she knows the suffering of the Algerian people. And other sufferings, bruising, scars of female bodies, of familiar bodies, of bodies of her blood. Women she adores. It is about sadness camouflaged by bright colours and bruises hidden by other colours. An autobiographical and self-taught palette.

How does she then work with textiles? In the way of kaketsugi – the Japanese art of invisible sewing-repair – they come to her in small pieces at the time of a bereavement: spouses give what is left in a work basket. She dismantles, thread by thread. She also sources herself, goes to search for them where work takes her. Here too, she undoes, remakes, creates her colours, her textures. Sometimes, because they originate from somewhere she saw something painful. So, Isabelle. D has her own palette, no colour is what it used to be. With these colours, she paints something where there is no emptiness – and no silence.

Tell her story, or her childhood ‘s traumas? Not doing it is not even a matter of modesty, she simply would not “have the courage” to do so. But embroidery, crochet, which she has been practising since childhood, that’s fine. She needs to go over and over again. With the plastic, with the thread, with the visible or invisible knots, with stretching, rolling up or cracking umbilical cords.

Painter, philosopher, and psychoanalyst Bracha L. Ettinger wrote about her own work: “The passage from the shock through the trauma to the full-fledged testimony may take 40 years. It takes a way to express oneself with a language1.” Nicolas Bourriaud added about her “Ettinger invents a painting of history that never evokes the past [ … ] she paints neither the holocaust nor the war, but the traumas they have generated [ … ]. Therefore her work falls within the area of the traumatology: it is a general study of the shock. The trauma is an injury sustained by the organism, and the traumatism is the resulting wound2.

The traumatology. One day Isabelle. D said a great truth. She was told to keep quiet. She finally found the way of expressing herself.

Discovering Isabelle. D’s work, I obviously thought of the work of Margaret and Christine Weirthem. It is not always really beneficial to mention formal similarities between two works – and the sisters’ sculptures tell stories of corals, of plant and animal death and of mathematics – but in the case of these two practices something occurs to hold them together behind the eyelids. One visualizes the powerful echo of a technique-material diffusing, between the most distant places and bodies, because it is the most adequate: compulsive and lively, it is the one emancipating from the fingers and bodies of women. So the resemblance here is like the sign of a magical sorority.

Ettinger also writes: “my hand-heart was signing what I could barely admit3”. I love this hand-heart. And Isabelle. D’s hand-heart gives us so many presents.

Eva Barois De Caevel, January 2023

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