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Isabelle Cerneau


Architecture of the Contemplatives

In the early morning, in Saint-Gervais, Paris becomes this silence where God makes his voice heard.
They are twenty. Whatever their age, their studies, their origin, the same call unites them: to contemplate God in the city of men.
They have chosen to devote half their time to prayer, morning, noon and evening, as well as to sororal life: solitary or community prayer; silent or sung in the secrecy of prayers; in listening to the word of God in the cell through reading; in the sharing of daily tasks; in the work or in the encounter with the seculars.
The pictorial aesthetics of the life of the nuns, and the appeasement it provides interested me a lot, in an approach of the feminine as a whole. There was the desire for a testimony of silence and of these daily lives that we imagine sober | pure | simple | dedicated.
By meeting these women out of step in a world that sanctifies time, consumption, appearance, etc., my perspective has expanded.
They opened their homes and places of prayer to me.
I discovered a world made of rules like ours, but without ego. A world made of silence, discussions and laughter by simple looks exchanged, intelligence, playfulness, joy in meditation, generosity, songs from elsewhere, questions, deep nights.
I tried to depict its intensity, complexity and fullness.
As I left these extraordinary dedicated lives, I felt the full extent of another form of freedom.

Isabelle Cerneau

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