Isabelle Borges

Vibrant Constructivist Painting Inspired By Nature

Works Bio
isabelle-borges_foto_david-hausmann_busche-kunst constructivist painting

Light, vibrant constructivism painting inspired by nature. Spaces formed solely by lines, folded and brought to dance. Spaces that are not just emptiness – these voids are bodies, objects, a solid substance. Such is the very unique form of geometric abstraction of Isabelle Borges.

The artist herself describes her constructivist painting as an attempt “to create an albeit fragmentary representation of a scientifically oriented, permanently rotating and folded space”. She wants to represent “a dynamic of space only through linear formations, without geometric and planar shapes. I am concerned with the space behind the space, with layers of space, but also with spaces in between. Forms inevitably arise as ethereal spaces in between. But these are no longer represented as geometrical bodies.”

And she continues: “I don’t mean space as empty, as a place between A and B, but rather as a kind of moving fabric that folds and rotates several times, in many layers and conditions, to elude our eye-controlled reality. The spatiality I depict arises from the folding of moving surfaces. The interplay of these different techniques thematizes an aesthetics of expansion. Expansion, as one of the aspects immanent to space, is a certain constant in all my works.”

isabelle-borges_Contemplation 20.4_busche-kunst
Isabelle Borges, Contemplation 20.4, collage, 60 x 40 cm

Her inspiration includes minimalists and color field painters such as Sol Lewitt and Ellsworth Kelly, who like her, combines geometric painting with the organic plant world. An important point of reference is the Abstract Expressionist Barnett Newman with his “minimalist aesthetic … of the absolutely necessary and true”. Like him, she wants to “develop a system, that is, create an imaginary space in which the sublime, that is, the sublime and unspeakable, is translated into an aesthetic experience.”

european constructivist painting

The European Constructivists, such as El Lissitzky or Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, are also among her models. But she emphasizes the difference: “Objectivism and the autonomy of pure color, or of pure form from geometry, is not my main goal. The poetic and intuitive goes together with the analytical in my work”.

An immidate inspiration for Isabelle Borges’ constructivist painting, the Concretismo of Brazil – with such artists as Lygia Clark, Lygia Pape, Almicar de Castro, Mira Schendel and Helio Oiticica – is closely connected with Europe, in particular through the person of Max Bill: in the early 1950s, the Swiss architect and designer traveled to Latin America several times, gave lectures there and exhibited in São Paulo. Switzerland and Brazil had one thing in common: both had been spared by World War II and the optimism, the utopian spirit of early Constructivism remained as much here as there.

The most important architect of Brazilian Modernism, Oscar Niemeyer, was associated with another giant of Europen Modernism: He was assistant to Le Corbusier in Rio de Janeiro who strongly influenced him. In his design for the new capital Brasilia, Niemeyer was able to continue Le Corbusier’s idea of the city as a sequence of serial blocks.

And even if the Brazilian was able to soften the strictness of the European by a freer composition of geometric forms: What emerged was not a lively urban structure, but a beautiful geometric abstraction.

Brasilia, the government district

Isabelle Borges, who lived for a few years as a teenager in the “site of modernist utopia that has become reality” (as Jorge Luis Borges called Brasilia), recalls: it was “a life like in an installation, a staged place that wanted to reach for heaven. A mathematically organized space, with clear geometric forms, long linear paths and a great many empty spaces in between.”

These lines and spaces in between can be found in her constructivist paintings – but in a modified form: the lines are alive and the spaces are not empty but filled.

The artist succeeds in animating the “cold”, intellektual utopia of modernity by taking in nature. There she finds what fascinate her: the inner logic of chaotic systems, the patterns behind apparent chaotic structures. “I am tempted to sense geometric spaces in between, but also amorphous forms, spatial tensions between objects first of all in nature, or rather in my immediate surroundings.”

During her walks on the outskirts of Berlin she discovered a small lake with water plants protruding from its reflective surface: with their light movements and changing shadows, they constantly create new images, new spaces. Borges’ photos of this lake are the starting point for many paintings, and they are also the basis for a separate body of works of collages.

Schwitters Merz-Bau
Kurt Schwitters, Merz Bau, photo: Wilhelm Redemann, 1933

The natural, the constantly changing perspective, constructivism as an organically growing system: the artist experienced this in particular in Kurt Schwitters’ Merz-Bau. She was deeply impressed by the reconstruction of this lost work of art, which Schwitters let grow through his apartment from 1923, in the Sprengel Museum in Hanover. “The experience of the walk-in installation of the Merzbau by Schwitters is like a reverberation of my youthful memories of Brasilia”.

From the playful, cheerful growth of the Merz-Bau and the free, surprising turns in nature, it is only a short way to dance. The constructivist paintings of Isabelle Borges are filled with rhythm and music. The implied “figures” in the pictures of the “Simulation” move like dancers, and to remove all uncertainty, one work she named The Dancer. The artist’s favourite music, by the way, is electronic mixed with jazz and classical music.

But also quite independently of the concept of rhythm and dance, the pictures with their anthropomorphic appearance are full of movement. It is wonderful to see how a triangle vainly spreads out, how a circle makes its own arc quite confidently; how the artist grants the lines the freedom to lose themselves in nowhere, to simply stop someplace without having reached a specific point, emphasizing the independence from constructivist orthodoxy…


Some paintings by this artist you can see in our exhibitions New Additions and Landscape, so Beautiful!. For more information, please see the reports on Isabelle Borges in artitious, Visit My Tent and Standard International, as well as her Facebook and Instagram pages. For a special report on her wall works, please go to Murals Inc.

If you like these paintings you might also be interested in the work of DAG, Matthias EschForster HerchenbachChristine Krämer, Doris Marten, Christopher SageBernhard C. Striebel and Jinny Yu.



Isabelle Borges was born 1966 in Salvador, Brasil. She lives and works in Berlin.

1985-88Social Sciences, UnB, Brasilia, Brazil
1989-92Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
1993moved to Cologne, Germany
1993-97assistent in the Cologne studios of Jack Ox, Antonio Dias, Sigmar Polke
1995-97Kunstakademie Düsseldorf

Solo Exhibitions (selection)

2020Textures of reality, Kogan Amaro Galeria, Zurich
2018Synthetic Fields, Kogan Amaro Galeria, Sao Paulo
Isabelle Borges – the garden of forking paths, Galerie 1214, Berlin
2017L’espace indicible, Galeria Roberto Alban, Salvador de Bahia, Brasil
2015Imbalance of nature, Holthoff Mokross Galerie, Hamburg
2014Dobras Silenciosas, Galeria Paralelo, Sao Paulo (curated by Tereza de Arruda)
Interchangeable Templates, Smac Artspace, Berlin
2013The arrow of time, Museu Brasileiro da Escultura MUBE, Sao Paulo (curated by Tereza de Arruda)
Isabelle Borges + Bernd Hahn, Galerie Alte Schule, Ahrenshoop
2011Der unsagbare Raum, Kunstverein Meiningen, Meiningen
The arrow of time (intro), Galerie im Tempelhofmuseum, Berlin
2010Isabelle Borges – Strom, Galerie Schuster, Berlin
2008Hinterkopf, Galerie Weisser Elefant, Berlin
Kalt, Kalt – Heiss, Heiss, Galerie Schuster, Frankfurt a. M.
2004Mind the Gap / Galeria Rosa Barbosa / Sao Paulo
2002Isabelle Borges, Brazilian Embassy, Berlin
Isabelle Borges, Galerie Spielhaus Morrison, Berlin
Isabelle Borges, Galerie Brigitte Utz, Dresden
2000Galeria Candido Mendes, Rio de Janeiro
Museu da República, Rio de Janeiro
Quatro Quadros – Centro Cultural Candido Mendes, Rio de Janeiro
Extremos – Centro Cultural Sao Francisco, Joao Pessoa, Brasil
1999Galeria SESC Paulista, Sao Paulo
Galerie Mönch, Berlin
Kunstverein Tiergarten, Galerie Nord, Berlin

Group exhibitions


– Clash / Valencia – Berlin / Sporting Club Russafa / Valencia / Spain
– Something True / Schau Fenster / Berlin / Germany
– Cold Turkey – Glue / Werketage eV. / Berlin / Germany
– Contemporary Contemplations  / Galerie Ursula Walter / Dresden / Germany
– Berlin Baustelle / De Cacaofabriek / Helmond / NL


– 14th. international Bienal of contemporary Art Curitiba / Oscar Niemeyer Museum /Curitiba Br
– Contemporary contemplations #4 / Bureau voor Kunst PHK 18 / Rotterdam NL
– Rhizome / Berlin based / Galerie Frank Taal / Rotterdam NL (curated by Bram Braam)
– Check mate / Abstrakt Art vs. Figurativ Art / Project space BCMA Berlin (invited by Jerry Kowalski, Wolfgang Flad)
– Geheimnis und Faktum / Galerie alte Schule Adlershof / Berlin (curated by Christoph Tannert)
– Kunst im September / mit Jessica Buhlmann, Christian Henkel / Pavillon am Milchhof / Berlin (curated by Dirk Teschner)


– Berlin Radio / five artists from berlin / Galeria Murilo Castro, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
– Desver a arte – KoganAmaro Galeria / Sao Paulo
– No place like home / Standard international – Glint / Loopraum Berlin (curated by Rüdiger Lange)
– Focus on abstraction / Pavillon am Milchhof / Berlin
– Contemporary Contemplations / Bethanien Haus (curated by Dag Berlin)
– Räume 2 / Group Show / Art Week Berlin
– Contemporary Contemplations II / Kunsthaus Erfurt / Germany (curated by Dag Berlin)
– In to the light / Bridgette Mayer Gallery / Philadelphia US
– A Fio a Cor / Villa Aymore / Rio de Janeiro (curated by Gabriela Davies)
– pequenos formatos e multiplos / Galeria Lurixs / Rio de Janeiro


– The inaudible and noiseless foot of time / Isabelle Borges – Christian Henkel / Kunstverein Meissen / Meissen D

– Reflecting space / Diana Sirianni, Eva Berendes, Isabelle Borges / Kunsthaus Essen / Essen D (curated by Marta Colombo)

– no limite / Museu da UFPA / Nazare, Belem / Br (curated by Martin Juef)

– Spectrum three / Collage Montage / Galerie Eigenheim / Berlin


– Les Miniatures / Galerie Nicole Gnesa / Munich / Germany / curated by codex Berlin
– The Great Leap / Galerie Rothamel / Erfurt / Germany
– Papier collé / kommunale Galerie Paterre / Berlin
– Zat Nr. 4 / Salon des Amateurs / Düsseldorf
– New masters vs. modern – Jörg Heitsch Gallery / Munich / Germany
– Kaleidoscope / Lóiseau presente / Ballhaus Ost / Berlin / Germany
– Inscape / Kunsthaus Erfurt / Erfurt / Germany
– Paper works II / Galerie Martin Mertens / Berlin
– Spectrum two / about paper / Galerie Eigenheim / Berlin
– Les Miniatures / Galerie Nicole Gnesa / Munich / Germany / curated by codex Berlin
– The Great Leap / Galerie Rothamel / Erfurt / Germany
– Papier collé / kommunale Galerie Paterre / Berlin
– Zat Nr. 4 / Salon des Amateurs / Düsseldorf
– New masters vs. modern – Jörg Heitsch Gallery / Munich / Germany
– Kaleidoscope / Lóiseau presente / Ballhaus Ost / Berlin / Germany
– Inscape / Kunsthaus Erfurt / Erfurt / Germany
– Paper works II / Galerie Martin Mertens / Berlin
– Spectrum two / about paper / Galerie Eigenheim / Berlin

For a complete list of earlier group shows please see the VITA on artist’s website.