This April, Waddington Custot will present 'The Vortex Paintings', 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
Fabienne Verdier: The Vortex Paintings coincides with a solo presentation of further examples of Verdier’s work from this series at Frieze New York (6–10 May 2020) on the Waddington Custot booth.
Verdier initiated The Vortex Paintings 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 Paintings, 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 Paintings represent 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.