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Fabienne Verdier’s Geography of the Spirit

For French artist Fabienne Verdier, the trajectory of a brush stroke contains the spirit of life.

Fabienne Verdier’s Geography of the Spirit


January 31st, 2013

Fabienne Verdier

Color Flows 3, 2012 (mixed media on canvas, 40 x 46cm)

Ten years of study with master calligraphers in China during the 1980s profoundly shaped Fabienne Verdier’s art – and her understanding of life and the world. Her practice is a confluence of intuition, emotion and physicality. Scale provides a channel through which the forces of matter and action contribute to artworks of restraint and spontaneity.

Her first solo exhibition in Southeast Asia is currently being shown at Singapore’s Art Plural Gallery, and features her latest drawings and large-scale paintings. spoke with her prior to its opening.

Fabienne Verdier

Color Flows 3, 2012, detail (mixed media on canvas, 40 x 46cm)

‘Sculptural painting’ – what does this mean?

I love the idea of the vertical act of painting. The Chinese invented this process; they play with fundamental forces – gravity. All the form our little planet, of the universe, is created by gravity. So 30 years ago, I thought, if I can use this gravity force, with my brushstroke creations being issued from gravity, maybe I will be in harmony with the form of nature. So I devote my life to that idea.

Fabienne Verdier

Cercle – Ascèse Rouge sur Vert Flamand, 2012 (pigments and ink on canvas, 183 x 135cm)

Does the act of painting take more prominence in your mind than the painted work?

They have equal importance. But you’re right, the moment you cross the space [of the canvas] is like an eternity of the instant. To paint involves a kind of mastery of spontaneity. When you look at my paintings, I hope that in your mind you see this movement across the space and reconnect with the energy. It’s a memory of this act, but I hope it is a vivid memory – not dead. There’s still movement in the space.

Fabienne Verdier

Fabienne Verdier

Installation VI – from the series Energy Fields, 2012, detail below (ink on Moulin du Gué paper, 198 x 134cm)

Could you tell me about the different dimensions of your learning in China?

I learned there for over 10 years. I’ll just provide a few examples, because it’s a long story. I completely changed my perception of reality after my apprenticeship with an old master. The first big shock was to forget who I am, and [then to question my] intellectual knowledge. We think we know something and we analyse. If we stay in that position in art, we are not in total receptivity to the unknown universe.

So the old Chinese master helped me to take a really long inner walk with myself, and try to forget who Fabienne Verdier is, as well as my cultural approach to reality, and try to hear something new. Because everywhere is new energy, moving in transformation. But you should be receptive.

After a while I understood that by not being who you are, you are much more. After 30 years of work, I found that we can connect with a sort of inner source – our own vital energy. So suddenly have a great conversation with my vital energy, and through my brush strokes I hope something happens.

Fabienne Verdier

Fracatalscapes II – Paysage dans l’énergie d’un trait, 2012 (mixed media on canvas, vertical polyptych, 170 x 113cm)

What originally inspired you to go to China?

At art school, I thought that we didn’t learn anything. There is a human being and a reality, and the human being has a habit of being a little bit proud. The basis of our contemporary art is the egocentricity of the creator. At that time, I didn’t feel good about this. I thought maybe I should look for another way.

I was very young. I read a lot of Chinese poetry and philosophy, and about how the human being and the universe is one. I love that idea. So I learned that there is another form of expression. It’s not about expressing our neuroses in art. I think that in art we should offer the public a new melody. I really want to offer the public a sort of great inner experience and to help them re-energise.

Fabienne Verdier

Fabienne Verdier

Color Flows 7, 2012, detail below (mixed media on canvas, horizontal triptych, 143 x 257cm)

How would you define form and space?

Hmm, this is a long story! For me there is no difference between form and space. For me, space is issued from form, form is issued from space, and form is born in void. Void is myriad form. I just try to hear from this void from which form will appear. Void creates form.

Fabienne Verdier

Memories of Norway, 2012 (drawing no. 2, oil pastel on Vélin d’Arches paper, 10.5 x 15cm)

What inspires the moment that you capture in a painting? Is it something you see, or an emotion you feel?

It’s not only an emotion. It’s a long maturation of something – of a moment of inspiration. For example, I had felt a great emotion while travelling in Norway. I was on a boat and contemplating a fixed landscape, but the landscape was often in movement because of the boat’s movement. I felt that I heard the music of the structure of reality in that landscape [and its 1, 2, 3 rhythm].

I continued my research for a year. My heart and mind continued to work – trying to find the essential form; a purification of the complexity; a maturation. And suddenly one morning, I have this inspiration. The emotion comes back with the inspiration. I have the vision [of the pure line].

Fabienne Verdier

Memories of Norway 1, 2012 (mixed media on canvas, vertical polyptych, 211 x 180cm)

That maturation of the idea – is that what meditation is to you?

Yes! You’re right. It’s a long, long meditation. The resulting abstract painting is spontaneous, but this spontaneity is not just gestural. It’s issued from another process. And this process comes from Chinese thought.

Fabienne Verdier

Memories of Norway 1, 2012, detail (mixed media on canvas, vertical polyptych, 211 x 180cm)

Fabienne Verdier: A Solo Exhibition runs from 25 January to 9 March 2013 at Art Plural Gallery, 38 Armenian Street Singapore. The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 7pm.

Images courtesy of Art Plural Gallery.

Fabienne Verdier

Art Plural Gallery

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