Isabella Benshimol | London, UKSep 02, 2022
My name is Isabella Benshimol, and I'm a Venezuelan artist based in London. I hold an MFA from Goldsmiths University and BA in Fine Art from NABA in Milan. My current practice draws from a series of performative actions to sculpture and installation. Working mainly with used clothes, epoxy resin and silicone, I seek to freeze in time the ephemeral actions, gestures and sensations of everyday life, creating a series of monuments to the body’s unconscious and intimate reactions.
I am interested in moments that span from the throwaway gesture of discarding sweaty clothes on the floor to the sensation of when my tongue touches my palate or the transparency of a white T-shirt that covers the blushing of my skin when I feel shame. My works often hover between pleasure and unpleasantness, clean and dirty, unconscious and conscious.
Growing up in the turbulent environment of Caracas, I found that contradictory and indigestible notions around barriers, limits and order within class and race clashed with the pervasive fear of uncertainty. Later, after I moved with my family to Madrid, these feelings were mirrored in my response to my family's Latin American geometric abstraction and modernist art collection. Being surrounded by stiff grids, pure monochromes, contained geometric shapes, and the unfulfilled promise of modernism in a now-failed state made me develop a need to trust my body and its unconscious reactions – which became a way to deal with my diasporic identity.
In the 1950s and ‘60s, after developing his theory of colour and his influential body of work ‘Coloritmos’ (Colorhythms), the Venezuelan artist Alejandro Otero embarked on his series ‘Hacia lo Blanco’ (Towards White). In Venezuela – and through art specifically – there seemed to be an urge to detach from the chaotic socio-political realities of this mestizo culture and aim for a cleaner and whiter future.
Whiteness and its relation to cleanliness and purity within intimacy and domestic spaces have always been an interest in my practice, generating a queasy mix of repulsion, anxiety and pleasure. I've explored this since the beginning of my career through bodies of work such as 'Soft Shell Cochleas' shown at Timothy Taylor Gallery in 2021 in New York or most recently 'Papicolostrum Intolerance Club', a series of sculptures shown at Moarain House in London. These works recall memories of going to play tennis as a child, with the sport’s implicit structure of boundaries and power. Colostrum – the first milk mothers produce after giving birth, the colour and texture of butter – acts as a colour reference in the title.
After a research period at Rupert's residency in Lithuania earlier this year and after almost five years of working with resin and fabrics, I have developed the need and means to push my practice further, aiming to penetrate broader contemporary and urgent conversations around race, sexuality, and class. Producing a new body of work and a consequent solo presentation seems vital at this point in my career. I am currently applying for funding opportunities to produce this work and looking for other avenues to fund this project.
My website: https://www.isabellabenshimol.com
My Instagram: @isabellabenshimoltoro