Past exhibition

Fabienne Verdier: Vortex

6 October–24 November 2020

Waddington Custot present 'Vortex', a remarkable new series by the celebrated contemporary abstract painter, Fabienne Verdier. 


Through her work, Verdier gives physical form to the usually invisible and intangible forces within nature, incorporating a wide range of natural phenomena, from gravity and kinetic energy to sound waves and vibrations. In these large-scale paintings, seen for the first time at Waddington Custot, Verdier continues her exploration into the painting of sounds and music, in particular the visual representation of breathing techniques employed by sopranos performing Mozart’s arias. The Vortex paintings are characterised by a single large, whirling helix, which dominates the composition and echoes the ascendant scaling sound of an aria.

Verdier initiated the Vortex works during her time as the first artist-in-residence at New York’s prestigious performing arts school, the Juilliard School. There, working on a smaller scale and in pen, Verdier captured in visual form the practice sessions and breathing techniques of prominent singers and musicians. She began to visualise the voices singing arias as columns of breath rising in the air, with each different piece of music engendering a unique vortex form.


Typically for Verdier’s work, the form on canvas is created with giant brushes and tools of her own invention, which are suspended from her studio ceiling. For this new series, the artist has adapted her studio environment to incorporate a mobile platform. This enables her to stand directly above the painting, which is laid on the ground, and to paint new, fluid expressions from the centre of the canvas.


In the Vortex series, Verdier captures melodies and rhythms of individual arias through ascending curves, undulations, and frequencies that she detects whilst listening to the music. The resultant paintings have a sense of weightlessness, reflecting the lightness of emotion and the ‘lifting’ sensation experienced when listening to voices singing an aria.


As Fabienne Verdier describes: “This series represents the energy of man and nature brought together in what becomes a state of total immersion. There is the dissolution of self into sound, into the environment, into the atmosphere. In my work I try to capture the invisible voice over soundwaves, to visualize energy and those things we feel but do not see”.


The Vortex series represents Verdier’s first new body of work following her major retrospective in France, held across three institutions including the Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. These new works reveal the evolution, depth and variety of Verdier’s practice, encompassing explorations into sound and geology within wide-ranging natural phenomena.




Read more

Installation views


Fabienne Verdier 'Vortex' Live

A multi-sensory film bringing together art and opera, with an exhibition tour of 'Fabienne Verdier: Vortex' Waddington Custot


  • Fabienne Verdier

    Fabienne Verdier

    October 6, 2020
    'Vortex' debuts new paintings made by Fabienne Verdier in response to Mozart’s arias. An engaging new text by Wells Fray-Smith (Whitechapel Gallery) explores how Verdier contextualises her work within the field of abstract painting, while Professor Simon Shaw-Miller (University of Bristol) contributes an essay about the cultural and art historical correspondence between music and art, via examples from the Renaissance to jazz. Together with an interview between Verdier and writer Ellen Mara De Wachter. drawings and extracts from Verdier’s notebooks, alongside numerous vivid illustrations, this publication establishes the artist's invaluable contribution to contemporary thought and painting.
  • Close