Judith Bartolani

1957 | Haifa, Israel

French sculptor and painter.

Judith Bartolani was born in Israel, where her family had emigrated in the 1950s. In the early 1980s her powerful gestural sculpture gained her an international recognition. She then abandoned materiality and began working conceptually, on politically engaged and polemical pieces in collaboration with Claude Caillol. Their last work made together was the animated film Blister in 2001. It is a reflection on mourning and a project to create new funerary objects that the artist was confronted with the imperious necessity to address hidden trauma, to listen to what haunted her, and to bury it. She did so through a story book full of words, pastels and scribbles, inhabited by the presence of a young girl named Sara, who tells her life, “in fact, a multitude of stories, and whose first name is like a tattoo”. The book became a sculpture encircled by a bramble of words and a video installation: Les Funérailles de Sara, nos funérailles, which was presented at the Ateliers d’artistes de la Ville de Marseille in 2005, and the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme  in the exhibition Charlotte Salomon, vie ? ou théâtre ? in 2006.

This return to sculpture through books, text and the formless, was incarnated by another piece also exhibited in Marseille: Margarete Sulamith (2005) in which a sentence from Paul Celan’s Death Fugue” (1945) calligraphed in the space like a macabre dance. J. Bartolani’s body of work thus reunited with an essentially graphic gesturalism for which the book was the usual and intimate support. After the “four-handed” experience of writing and drawing the character of Sara, she took on Primo Levi’s If This Is a Man (1947), which she recopied for almost three years, as if in a trance. “Imagine if it was a woman that lost her name and her hair” was the starting point for this undertaking in which writing became drawing and covered her books and journals. This return to the twentieth century, this perilous return to oneself, is today followed by a return to the history of art, like a “re-surveying” through which J. Bartolani inventories and interprets, through drawing, master ieces of the history of art that she has found herself in once again.

Nathalie Hazan-Brunet

Translated from French by Katia Porro.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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