This November, Waddington Custot is proud to present Fabienne Verdier’s (b. 1962, Paris) first solo exhibition in London. The exhibition will feature large-scale abstract paintings produced over the last year. These include recent work from the Walking Paintings series as well as a new group of paintings, Rhythms and Reflections, which mark a noteworthy change of direction for the artist.
As a painter known for combining an Eastern artistic education with the tradition of Western art, Verdier’s work is characterised by bold gestural compositions relying on a number of techniques developed over the past thirty years. In an intensely physical process, Verdier uses painting tools of her own invention, largescale, custom-made brushes, funnels and other implements suspended from her studio ceiling. This vertical painting technique allows Verdier’s mark making to be a product of the body moving freely, not restricted by the weight of the brush, playing with gravity. The paintings combine the influence of Action painting with more meditative, theoretical concepts of unity, spontaneity, asceticism and other aspects of an Eastern trajectory of art history.
Verdier’s physical and performative creative practice has undergone an evolution in recent years that can be seen most vividly in the Rhythms and Reflections series. These paintings were made following Verdier's return to France from a period of intense experimentation spent as the first visual artist-in-residence at The Juilliard School in New York in 2014. The creation of both music and painting simultaneously, awakened in Verdier a profound awareness of vibration and the rhythm of melodic phrases. In the Rhythms and Reflections works, Verdier balances her on-going exploration of gesture with a consideration of the pictorial surface as a whole and consequently the creation of a sense of space and depth.
Multiple layers of glaze are initially built up, adding a translucency and vibrancy to the surface of each canvas. Definition is given to an abstract plane of broad monochromatic brushstrokes through a series of vertical drips of paint that Verdier resolutely incorporates into the composition. A departure from her previous practice, the new works on the whole are less about the physical act of painting and more about the consideration of a rhythmic layering, nomadism and sudden events of mark making. As Verdier herself considers, “Everything in this world is vibration: forces in constant movement, combinations of rhythms and reflections of the real. We ourselves are rhythms steeped in the great universal rhythm. As the Mexican poet Octavio Paz once said: ‘Rhythm is not a tempo: it is a vision of the world.’”
If this new series offers Reflections, the Walking Paintings are composed as a ‘lightning strike’. The series is a result of a performative act: a funnel of paint, suspended from the ceiling, pulled across the canvas in a swift horizontal movement. Begun in 2012, the series has gone through several stages of development and is the continuation of the artist’s exploration of the idea of the ‘trait’ (a line drawn, in French). As the paint falls, the raw energy of the artist walking on the painting is translated onto the canvas, making nature’s intangible forces tangible.
Verdier’s paintings feature in several private and public collections including the Centre Pompidou, Cernuschi Museum, Pinakotek der Moderne and Foundations Hubert Looser, François Pinault and Palazzo Torlonia. Recent projects include conceptual collaboration with architect Jean Nouvel for the National Art Museum of China in Beijing and exhibitions and installations in Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, Vienna, Rome, Lausanne, Zurich and Brussels, among other cities.