Born in Australia to a New Zealander father and Belgian mother, Isabelle Woodhouse is an artist who has always moved from one side of the world to the other. As far as she can remember, she was looking out of plane windows, observing the earth below. Collecting stones and sand as a child from places she visited, this habit would naturally become part of her art practice.
Her contact with the earth, not being able to say which country she is from, and having three passports, are things that define Woodhouse’s identity. Her experience is her personal resource.
Antipodes VIII 29,7 x 42
Volcanic sand (Piha, New Zealand), red clay earth (Puerto Serrano, Spain) and adhesive on paper
Whilst being an unaffectedly artistic person, Woodhouse chose to study international relations. She was drawn in particular to cultural diplomacy, or the potential of art as a universal means of communication. She then went on to do an MA in cultural management and an MFA at Chelsea College of Art. During these years, Woodhouse focused on the idea of a creative universal language. She experimented amongst other examples by setting up a participatory project in India that consisted in compiling drawings of a given idea made by people of entirely different social and professional backgrounds. This informed her ideas about drawing, as a basic and essential foundation to cross cultural communication. Woodhouse looks at drawing in a way that highlights it’s independence of language and education, she sees it as something that is timeless and immediate, awakening familiar senses. “Everyone” she says “knows what it feels like to use a pencil and paper”. Woodhouse uses drawing as a way of mapping thoughts, places. She quotes Richard Serra as saying “to see is to think, and drawing is another way of thinking”.
Drawing provides Isabelle with the freedom to improvise and engage directly with materials. Her mark making is at once deliberate and spontaneous, resulting in a physicality that speaks to the senses. Her sculptural drawings are representations of geographic, physical landscapes as well as expressions of unbound interior landscapes.
For her solo exhibition at L’Artichaut, Isabelle Woodhouse has created a series of works challenging our perception of borders. These can manifest themselves conceptually through linear folds, playing with light and shadow, or tangibly through graphite and mineral particles such as volcanic sand and red clay earth, superimposed to create a suggestive dialogue of material evidence. Her latest work brings together matter from exact antipodes of the Earth. The limits of the Earth, invisible and conceptual, exist on a sheet of paper, visible and concrete. Woodhouse’s work often floats between these paradoxical notions, and it helps to read it with these in mind.
Reducing the greatest earthly distance to two shades on a page, is Woodhouse’s way of reducing the size of the world. Reflecting on contemporary geopolitics, ideas of distance and separation, this series of drawings renders a tangible experience of the closeness of places. In a time when borders are alarmingly being reinstated or reinforced, the superimposition of two antipodes plays a central role in asking, where do we stand?