Isabelle de Borchgrave: An ode to elegance through the art of paper

(c) Michel Figuet

Nicholas Sirot visits the exhibition of recent work by this singular Belgian artist

In the world of contemporary art, there are artists who follow trends, and then there are those who create them. Isabelle de Borchgrave is among a handful of artists who can be described as a visionary.  Through her incredible works, she transports us into a realm where fashion, history, and art blend with striking harmony.

“Fashion, history, and art blend with striking harmony”

Throughout her life de Borchgrave has dedicated her talent and creativity to pushing the boundaries of artistic creation. Her most renowned work to date was her Papiers à la Mode where she covered ‘a mere’ 400 years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel – an artistic feat that is breathtaking in scale and astounding in what can be achieved with this most simple of materials.

More recently, the success of Miradas de Mujeres (Women’s Gaze) exhibition in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts received wide critical acclaim. The artist took inspiration from Frida Kahlo, with whom she shares a love of fabric, patterns and colours. Both project the same energy and passion: in a sense, it is a contemplation of one artist by another. 

“Bursts of colour, textures and materials light up the gallery”

The latest exhibition of recent works returns to paintings on pleated paper, bronze furniture and decorative objects. We are reminded that de Borchgrave’s work isn’t only for museums! Bursts of colour, textures and materials light up the gallery. Despite first appearances this work is not a complete departure from her other work inspired by costumes and clothing. The pleating itself is inspired by the textiles and design of Mariano Fortuny who has also been a great inspiration. There is much debate about the line between artist and artisan, in de Borchgrave’s world the two are merged seemlessly together.

 “The latest exhibition of recent works returns to paintings on pleated paper”

Speaking to the artist at the opening (the short interview will be available in the online version) de Borchgrave says that her passion for art started at an early age. She left school at 14 to study drawing for three years without using colour at all, waving an arm at the paintings behind her she points to her paintings bursting with colour: “we see the result!”. She has been inspired by the galleries and museums, she cites Vuillard, Bonnard and Matisse as strong influences. 

Talking about her latest works she says that her paintings are often influenced by her travels, but this year she didn’t travel and instead took inspiration from her surroundings and atelier. One painting was inspired by observing three small pastels, where looking closely she saw the similarities with nature, with rocks. Like all her works, this collection of paintings are personal interpretations that breathe life into the world around us, and what a wonderful world hers is. 

Her latest creations will be showcased at her studio, located at 73a Chaussée de Vleurgat, from 20 October to 16 December; an opportunity to (re)discover the unique universe she has crafted in the heart of the city, a hidden gem.

And one last note, if you are looking for presents, you can find a small collection of items designed by de Borchgrave, from Gingko necklaces and bracelets to beautiful garden furniture on her website: