Revista Nueva, "Con el corazón mirando al Sur", Junio 2011

With the heart looking South


Isabel de Laborde is a French-Mexican artist who totally fell in love with Buenos Aires and San Martín de los Andes. In Argentina, she not only formed her own family, but also developed the greater part of her renowned work. She is now  exhibiting her interventions on wood gathered from the rivers and lakes of Patagonia, a region she has found to be a work of art in itself.

What she hopes for is to continue with “inner thirst”, as the poet Hugo Mujica wrote. That thirst not only portrays her as an artist, but also as an adventurous woman, who doesn’t belong to here nor there, responding to perfection that phrase saying “ Joy is the color of my identity". 

Isabel de Laborde  was born in 1953, in Mexico city. But when asked about her origins, she says she is “French-Mexican” for she went through her secondary schooling and her art studies in Paris, a city she fell in love with at first sight. But talking about love, Argentina appears, with its captivating and bewitching magic. When she was twenty, Isabel met Miguel de Laminat, a member of one of the first pioneering families that settled in the south-west region of Neuquèn province. Though she had been acquainted with Argentine culture through a friend, it was her romance with Miguel that won her over towards the fine and beautiful features of this country south of the Equator. They married in Mexico, to the tunes of the Trìo Los Panchos orchestra. Then they lived in Venezuela, and since 1980, they spend their time between Buenos Aires and San Martìn de los Andes. In each of these cities Isabel keeps a working studio. As a result of their marriage, Isabel and Miguel have two children, Victoria, 25, and Pablo, 22.         

Of course, Isabel has other children as well. Her sculptures, inks, paintings and engravings, in which “. . .the insinuation is all.” Insinuations, that is, the clues or the promise of a revelation.” As Santiago Kovadloff once said. These days, Isabel’s works are being exhibited at the Centro Cultural Recoleta, under the title of “Vegetation Cord”, an installation consisting of intervened  woods found along  Patagonian river beds and lake shores. The exhibition has three different expressions: Intervened woods, inks, and a plantation of 180 trees that we made with my husband – in Isabel’s own description - , which consist of two hexagons of 90 trees each, as a homage to my parents  and my father in law. One by one, these trees will be donated to people linked to us and to the cycles of life, in the past, present and future, building a network of great cords of affection, and at the same time, an umbilical cord to Mother Earth. As for the woods, they are a large family of shapes cut with a motor-saw, carved, painted, burned, and engraved with ceramic enamels. They represent the singularity of each individual in the world.         

Isabel’s paintings hang in prívate galleries and company walls in Madrid, Zurich, Miami, and London – Besides Argentina and Mexico - . After studying at the Union Centrale des Arts Decoratifs and at the Ecole Nationale  Superieure de Beaux Arts. In Paris, se worked as a textile designer for Marielle Bancou and Primrose  Bordier. In the eighties, she studied with Aurelio Macchi, Eduardo Stupìa, Carlos Gorriarena, Luis Felipe Noè, Matilde Marín, Lucrecia Urbano, Lucrecia Orloff and Alejandra Jones.

- Isabel: Why did Patagonia have such a great impact on you?

My family is very Cosmopolitan, and I like synchronicity. Today, I am Argentine by adoption, and, if it were possible, my fourth nationality would be Patagonian! But my fascination with these territories is not by chance. My art was fully impregnated by its rhythms, its silence, its generosity and immensity, and the warmth of its people.  My life was very urban. I only understood rural environment through paintings I saw at the museums. So, when I discovered Patagonia, and I found myself in that universe of miles upon miles of blank white paper, I felt trapped. being immersed in nature, puts you into contact with the meaning of life, with the cosmos.     

– Well, in fact, that is the outstanding concept of your current exhibition. . .

_ Exactly. There is a subtle thread connecting nature and life itself, which enables us to forge our own identity within diversity. It does not happen randomly. When I focus on a “Vegetation Cord” I am referring to those bonds of affection and to that family that each one of us molds around oneself.

_ How would you sum up your work? What do you want to transmit through it?

_ It rests on abstraction, and nature is the trigger. The Patagonian landscape is part of my inner landscape. Both move together; through rhythm and poetry: I carve and intervene the pieces of wood from the river beds and the lake shores, harvesting colors and geometries of nature tanned by the winds and shaped by the waters. And I rejoice in giving them a new life, baptizing their forms. The China inks are more symbolic, but the pieces of wood talk, they have a story to tell, and in the same manner, our children have fibers, veins, and aromas. Life with art and art in life live together constantly. We die and we are born continuously.    

_ How important are lines, colors, texture and geometry for you?

_ They are none the less, the very elements I need to playfully create on papers and on cloth. From them spring verbs, dances, and rhythms. The large scale, and the small, become inter-woven. The landscape is inside me: We are landscape!. In particular I took on the Patagonian scale, for I adore its immensity. With wood carvings, geometry is essential: curves stem from straight lines, as Macchi would point out.   

_ Since you mention Macchi, Which were, and are, your references?

_ I had wonderful teachers in different disciplines and techniques. Three of them taught me that abstraction and figuration go together: “Yuyo” Noé, Gorriarena and Stupía. On the other side, Santiago Kovadloff  told me that metaphors are necessary, and that there is nothing better than to work upon the unknown.

_ What inspires you, Isabel?

_ Nature, of course. She is my great muse.

Listening to the void and the silence, which are revealing. The creative act is a journey towards liberty, space, and towards a manner of thinking when doing. I try to free myself from pre-conceived ideas, so I associate them subconsciously. In that instant, I know I am inhabited by a boundless landscape in which I inscribe certain signs.

_ I dream of travelling through Argentina organizing  exhibitions of different versions of “Vegetation Cord”, all of them under the same tenet: We sough and we harvest, with tenacity.

Mariano Petrucci