Fabienne Verdier (b.1962, Paris, France) is a French abstract painter who explores the dynamism of forces in nature through her knowledge of the techniques and traditions of both Western and Eastern art. Verdier paints vertically in ink, standing directly on her stretchers with giant brushes and tools of her invention suspended from her studio ceiling. Verdier’s work combines Eastern aspects of unity, spontaneity and asceticism with the line, action and expression of Western painting. As a young art school graduate from l'École des Beaux-Arts de Toulouse, Verdier was awarded in 1984 a postgraduate scholarship at Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in China, and left France to study the art of calligraphy and other Eastern traditions with some of the last great Chinese painters who survived the Cultural Revolution. Her adventure and immersion as an apprentice painter would last nearly a decade, over the years 1984–1993, recounted in her 2005 book, Passagère du Silence: Dix ans d'initiation en Chine.
Verdier’s work has been exhibited extensively worldwide, including in Beijing, Brussels, Lausanne, London, Paris, Rome, Singapore, Taipei and Zurich. In 2011, she was included in an important group exhibition, ‘The Art of Deceleration: from Caspar David Friedrich to Ai Wei Wei’, at the Kunstmuseum in Wolfsburg, Germany. In 2012, the Hubert Looser Foundation in Zurich, having previously commissioned several works, included Verdier in a group exhibition alongside Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, Ellsworth Kelly and Cy Twombly in Vienna’s Kunstforum. In 2013, the Groeninge Museum in Bruges, Belgium, held an important solo exhibition of Verdier’s work in conversation with Flemish Primitives such as Van Eyck and Memling. In 2014, Verdier created an installation of seven works for Köningsklasse II, organised by the Pinakothek der Moderne of Munich, and participated in Formes Simples at Centre Pompidou-Metz, France. The same year, Verdier spent time as artist-in-residence at The Juilliard School, New York where she painted in response to Mozart’s arias and studied the breathing techniques employed by sopranos. In addition to her artistic research into the correspondence between music and painting, other recent projects include Verdier’s conceptual collaboration with architect Jean Nouvel for the National Art Museum of China project in Beijing. In 2016, seven of Verdier’s works were acquired by Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Verdier was invited to compose a visual partita for the 2017 edition of the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and won the commission to design the official poster for the Roland-Garros French Open. In 2018, the artist set up a nomadic studio on Montagne Sainte-Victoire, a landscape renowned for its presence in several paintings by Paul Cézanne. The series was exhibited alongside the works of Cézanne at Verdier’s celebrated retrospective exhibition at Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, 2019. In 2022 Verdier had a solo show at the Musée Camille Claudel, Alchimie d'un vitrail, showcasing a series of stained-windows she created alongside ‘master glassmaker’ Flavie Serrière Vincent-Petit.
In 2020, Verdier embarked on an important new series, Vortex. Inspired by her earlier residency at The Juilliard School, these paintings express the melodies and rhythms of Mozart’s arias in the form of a large, whirling helix. This series required Verdier to adapt her studio environment, incorporating a mobile platform so that her movement above the painting allows new, fluid expressions from the centre of the canvas.
Fabienne Verdier currently lives and works in France and Canada.Read more
Fabienne Verdier: Vortex
Exhibitions and Art Fairs
Modern & Contemporary
Frieze Viewing Room
During her residency, Fabienne would join the practice sessions of musicians and singers and attempt to capture the music she heard as a visible manifestation on the page, as she described: “I closed my eyes and I heard something and I got a totally new vision of what sound is. A new structure appeared in my brain: I discovered a new form, a new dynamism which was a real revolution in my painting.”
This idea was further developed the following year with ‘Vide Vibration’ part of a commission by the Roberts French Dictionary, in which Verdier considers silence as a kind of inhabited emptiness, preparing our mind to the relative movement of sound energy.
Also included in the Frieze New York presentation are large scale paintings in a restricted palette of just two colours, including the ‘Infra-Red’ series in blue and red. With this combination, Verdier makes reference to the edges of the light spectrum as perceived by the human eye, and the light which remains on the retina, still ‘seen’ when the eyes are closed. In this respect, Verdier was interested in the impact of light energy on our bodies, as compared to the effect of sound energy, and the continued effect of the vibrations of music once a piece of music is stopped.
In 2020, Verdier returned to the arias she had been inspired by at the Juilliard School to create the ‘Vortex’ series. For these large scale canvases, Verdier prepares the background over several weeks with: a single colour, worked into the surface. The single gestural motif is created with an immense brush, suspended from the ceiling of her studio by a thick chain. In the ‘Vortex’ paintings on view here, the gesture takes the form of a whirling helix, painted in response to the operatic scaling of sopranos and altos performing Mozart arias.
Work on Paper
Frieze New York
This diverse presentation of artworks spans several decades, with pieces connecting through a multitude of points.
Art Basel Hong Kong
Our presentation includes works by Chu Teh-Chun, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Peter Blake, Ian Davenport, Jean Dubuffet, Barry Flanagan, Hans Hartung, Pierre Soulages and Fabienne Verdier.