On the occasion of Frieze New York 2021, Waddington Custot celebrates the work of French abstract painter Fabienne Verdier. The solo presentation focuses on Verdier’s expression of the way in which sound energy, created by vibrations, moves through substances, inspired by her experience as the first artist in residence at The Juilliard School, New York in 2014
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.