Vortex. Fabienne Verdier. 2020

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Vortex

Fabienne Verdier



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Constant Becoming Wells Fray-Smith

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Where Breathing Starts Professor Simon Shaw-Miller

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Plates

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Fabienne Verdier in Conversation Ellen Mara De Wachter

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Plates

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List of Works

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Biography




Constant Becoming

Wells Fray-Smith

Fabienne Verdier’s Vortex paintings feel wildly alive. Massive, intersecting rings of single colour —  in black, red, cyan and white —  expand and swell across the surface of each canvas. They have a life of their own. Some draw us upwards, spiralling energetically beyond the edges of the frame; others — frenetic, falling, concentric circles  — draw us in. These gestural and abstract paintings bring to mind a breathing body that expands, opens out and then lengthens with each inhale, only to shrink, fold and constrict with each exhale. The vitality of the Vortex paintings echoes a comment made by Verdier earlier this year: ‘music is the best art to suggest the essence of reality as it is never static, it is always in a state of constant becoming.’ 1 The breathing pulse of the Vortex paintings is directly related to a life-changing experience Verdier had whilst an artist-in-residence at The Juilliard School in New York in 2014. Over the course of a year, she collaborated with musicians and teachers to discover ways to implement a ‘dialogue between music and painting, between the line of sound and the line of a picture.’ 2 At the Juilliard, Verdier often painted alongside musicians as they played, a process that freed her from predetermined images as she synchronised her hand with the vibrations, rhythms and notes that permeate a musical score. The distinct characteristic of each vortex —  whether it rises up, pulls downward, spirals loosely or is heavily cropped — is based on Verdier’s close listening of Mozart’s arias in advance of starting to paint. As she listens, at a certain moment the form and composition appear to her. She will then sketch, allowing the rising of each helix to mirror the ascension of the voice. Listening to an aria over and over again, sure that the form of the vortex corresponds to the performance of the soprano singer, she is pushed into action. Connecting with the music is important for Verdier, who can feel ‘immediately if something has happened or not.’ Often, unsatisfied with the final painting, she will wipe the surface clean and begin again. Verdier’s breath forms an essential part of her painting process, which is highly active. Like the great gestural abstractionists, Verdier insists on the primacy of the gesture. Just as Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler laid the canvas directly on the studio floor, so too does Verdier. But she updates their practices of pouring, dripping and dragging by wielding a large, horse-hair brush in circular motions to dispense paint. Verdier further innovates her process by utilising a rolling platform that glides over the canvas, allowing her to cross the work with her body and actively paint in the air (‘I have to fly over the canvas’). Her gestures expand in three dimensions, rising and falling and spanning from

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side to side uninterrupted in a single continuous movement; once initiated, the paintbrush releases pigment until dry, or moved off the support. In this skilled if somewhat aleatory process, Verdier works quickly, completing the composition in a single session. The thick painterly lines and drips in the Vortex paintings are an index of the creative process. In the tradition of Abstract Expressionism and critic Harold Rosenberg’s wellknown line that in action painting, ‘what was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event,’ each of the Vortex paintings is a gestural remainder of Verdier’s performance on the canvas.3 Looking closely at each painting, we are able to reconstruct her self-described system ‘that is halfway between doing and not doing, keeping up and holding back, letting things happen and acting directly.’ 4 For example, in the painting Ridente la calma nell’alma si desti (May a joyful calm rise in the soul)  [page 81], we can infer from the thick and opaque section of the winding black line that this is where Verdier slowed down and exerted more force on her brush. Gravity and weight draw the paint onto the surface, which accumulates with more time and pressure. Verdier encourages viewers to experience her brushwork as effects in this way: ‘the canvas is much more than a painting; in fact, it is the result of my experiences on the ground. I dare to hope that anyone contemplating it might be swept up in the same original movement.’ 5 The Vortex paintings are remarkable not only in terms of their process and their connection to the music that underpins them, but also in terms of what they do as paintings. They show Verdier at her best, connecting the viewer to her own bodily experiences as well as the unseen, shifting and changing forces that permeate our reality. The Vortex paintings vibrate in a sense of suspended emergence, recreating the constant state of flux of the universe and connecting us to ‘poetry of the world.’ In Se tu lo lasci far (If you let him do it) [page 88] as concentric circles whirl outwards and expand towards the top of the canvas, Verdier creates the sensation that they continue energetically beyond the edge of the support. The question of how the vortex will develop and what form it will take is left open. The viewer is engaged in a state of expectancy. This constant state of anticipation is the magic of the Vortex paintings, and is what sets Verdier apart from other gestural abstractionists. Verdier sets her body in motion, and the paintings foreground her body, gesture and movement. But, through a process of visual metamorphoses, the Vortexes also prompt attention to our own bodies. First appearing as abstract loops that unfurl in ascending and descending rows,


they can be understood as ideograms for music with the rising helixes demonstrating the climbing notes in an aria, and then as literal, pictorial representations of the breath’s movement around an imagined figure. When we breathe, Verdier explains, ‘vibrations turn around the human being.’ At the Juilliard, the influential vocal coach Edith Wiens taught Verdier how opera singers perform with their whole body, releasing air from their mouth in such a way that it is ‘swung outward, expanding in space.’ 6 Verdier recalls the experience of watching them breathe in song: ‘the dynamic phrasings of the voice seemed to be launched like a whirlwind.’ 7 The Vortexes, therefore, are simultaneously abstract (as paintings), symbolic (of music) and representational (of whirling breath). They draw attention to the body of the artist, the body of the breathing opera singer and, finally, to our own. We project ourselves into the centre of the vortex and imagine energies and life-forces that move around us. Not literally rendered, the figure is imagined. Verdier creates what Rosalind Krauss described as a ‘projective space of figuration.’ 8 Since the late 1950s, abstract painting has, at various moments, been under siege. Yet Verdier’s Vortex paintings are testaments to the genre’s resilience to movements that might have otherwise rendered it obsolete: minimalism, conceptualism, new media and figuration, to name a few. In their process, these paintings assimilate the historical traditions of Abstract Expressionism, yet integrate formalism with a strong conceptual and figurative purpose in their connection to music and the body. The potential of these paintings lies in their ability to be many things at once, shifting between the abstract, conceptual, symbolic, real and imagined. In the rising and swelling of forms that seem to consistently move and anticipate a body within, the Vortex paintings are visual metaphors for the possibility of change in itself and a new order of things. They are metaphors for a constant becoming.

1 Unless otherwise stated, all further quotations by Fabienne Verdier are from an interview conducted by the writer on 16 February 2020. 2 For more on this, see The Juilliard Experiment: A Film by Mark Kidel, February 2016 (http://fabienneverdier.com/db/ the-juilliard-experiment). 3 To read Harold Rosenberg’s text, see Barbara A Macadam, ‘Top Ten ARTnews Stories: “Not a Picture but an Event”’, 1 November 2007 (https://www.artnews.com/artnews/ news/top-ten-artnews-stories-not-a-picture-but-anevent-181); ‘The American Action Painters’, was originally published in ARTnews, in December 1952, and later in Harold Rosenberg, The Tradition of the New (Horizon Press, 1959). 4 For more, see Fabienne Verdier in conversation with Doris von Drathen, in Doris von Drathen, Painting Space: Fabienne Verdier (Edizioni Charta, 2012). 5 Ibid. 6 T he Juilliard Experiment, op. cit. 7 Ibid. 8 See Rosalind Krauss, ‘Reading Jackson Pollock, Abstractly’, in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths (MIT Press, 1999).

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Where Breathing Starts

Professor Simon Shaw-Miller

Fabienne Verdier’s new paintings take as their starting point the breath of a singer performing Mozart’s arias. The title of my essay takes as its starting point a piece of music by the Norwegian jazz pianist Tord Gustavsen. Both pose the question: where does breathing start? Where the Breathing starts Gustavsen’s piece starts with one-and-a-half beats of silence.1 Tord Gustavsen Trio Tord Gustavsen

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Where Breathing Cm Starts, Tord Gustavsen Trio, 2003 5

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fact, the piece lives as much through the breaths       of              Gustavsen silence  as it does through the notes of music. works within a standard four-beat structure, but offsets the  Eb#5 by theEbreath placing ofFm and musical of rests.  phrases   gestures  9         Phrases    Notall     and   finally resolved.    are delayed, suspended, 3 these silences and breaths are the same of course, the bodies Pno.      But   and change     that they are or works    within  frame    them.    breath animates art as much as it does music. Verdier’s paintings translate the breath a single Dm7b5 G7sus4 G7#5 Dm7b5into Cm swirling /C 13  breath gesture, of the body; a movement both above   a single        gesture, and on the canvas, which, like Gustavsen’s musical   Pno.   large    works require comes breath control    These  out      of silence.  2 just as music does. Verdier paints with her whole body. Her grand-scale gestural paintings have always required physical B G/B Csus Cm tension and release, small controlled movements of the 17   the          breath translated singer’s   into full bodilyrhythmic gesture.   brush can only Pno. The enormous be controlled through pockets          another    As    great of time. explained, in drawing   jazz pianist    links between jazz improvisation and Japanese painting, he wrote of the discipline of control: ‘These artists must practice a particular discipline, that of allowing the idea to express itself in communication with their hands in such a direct way that deliberation cannot interfere.’3 In both Verdier’s painting and Gustavsen’s jazz, tacit knowledge is at play, acquired through years of practice, reflection, meditation and performance. Skilful execution requires the suspension of vociferous consciousness and the creation of a zone in which mind and body flow through inspiration of a preparatory breath and exhalation of creative gesture. Both music and art are crucially dependent on the idea of gesture. In a jazz trio such as Gustavsen’s, original ideas are passed from player to player, rhythmic and harmonic Pno. In

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gestures are created in a conversation that no single one of them controls. All of Verdier’s paintings have a dialogue within them, between the silent interlocutor of the ground, and the marks made upon it. That there is a relationship between painting and music might at first appear obvious to some, obscure to others. For isn’t one silent and spatial, the other noisy and temporal? This conception, or the related one that art exclusively addresses the sense of sight, and music the sense of hearing, is shallow-rooted in the 18th century.4 Gotthold Lessing, in his ‘Laocoön: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry’ (1766), proposes that progress in art can only be made once the limitations of each artistic medium is recognised and appropriately addressed. Thus, the story of Laocoön and his sons’ deaths during the siege of Troy is contrasted, in its sculptural representation in the Vatican Museum, with Vergil’s clamorous poetic account in ‘The Aeneid’. In the sculpture, Laocoön, who has been bitten by a sea serpent sent by Apollo (or Poseidon), maintains visual decorum, opening his mouth to let out a subtle, dying breath. Vergil’s Laocoön, however, is permitted dynamic excess, ‘His roaring fills the flitting air around / Thus, when an ox receives a glancing wound / He breaks his bands, the fatal altar flies /And with loud bellowings breaks the yielding skies.’5 A generation after Lessing, Hegel draws lines between the arts of the eye and the arts of the ear, separating the scopic from the auditory, silencing art and blinding music. Contrarily the Romantics proposed a more synaesthetic allowance of conceptual bleed, but despite the aspiration to purism or synaesthesia, music and art are sisters (loving or not). Their intersections take place ideologically, socially and technically. While proportion and mathematics relate them both together (as is evident in Italian Renaissance architectural theories of proportion), sound and space also intersect; in the innovative polyphonic choral music of St Mark’s in Venice, in the split-choir formation (coro spezzato), pioneered by Adrian Willaert (c.1490–1562), and in the complex spatial musical arrangements of Luigi Nono’s Prometeo (1985).6 Notions of ‘absolute’ music acted as models for visual abstraction in the paintings and writings of Wassily Kandinsky. Johann Joseph Fux’s Gradus ad Parnassum (1725), a treatise on counterpoint, acted as a model for Paul Klee’s art courses at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Cubism is replete with complex depictions of musical instruments and musical subjects that conjure relationships with notions of sexuality, contemporary politics, and spatial and temporal compression. Digital art synthesises and unifies sound and sight into zeros and ones. Even the


pure sonic art of the symphony orchestra revolves around the silent, visually compelling gestures of the conductor, and the graphic complexity of the score. Boundaries are crossed and hybridity is celebrated.7 As Gustavsen’s music so ably demonstrates, music is as much about the control of space (where a note happens), as art is about the control of time (when a stroke occurs). Verdier’s paintings are titled by the arias that inspired them so that words, music and marks converge on, as Duchamp called the titles of paintings, their ‘invisible colour.’8 Verdier’s paintings are a record of actions, breaths and movements that compel the viewer to travel in time as much as the marks travel in space. Her aesthetic is analogue in its focus on the integrity and flow of body and mind, establishing a phenomenology. For all her apparent purist delight in paint and colour, her works frequently reach out to music, and not just in those that seek explicit connections. Here, music is never illustrated. Rather, her paintings share with it rhythm, gesture and breath. A score is music expressed in marks. A painting by Verdier is a registration of rhythm and musical gesticulation. Music and art are initiated where breathing starts.

1 ‘Where Breathing Starts’ is the 9 th track on Tord Gustavsen’s

debut Trio album Changing Places released on ECM Records in 2003 (ECM 1834): Tord Gustavsen: piano; Harald Johnsen: double-bass; Jarle Vespestad: drums.

2 While in residence at The Juilliard School Verdier took

breath control lessons from soprano Edith Wiens.

3 Liner notes by Bill Evans for Kind of Blue (Columbia records,

produced by Teo Macero and Irving Townsend, recorded 2 March and 22 April 1959, released 17 August 1959).

4 For more on this see, Simon Shaw-Miller, Visible Deeds of

Music: Art and Music from Wagner to Cage (Yale University Press, 2002).

5 Translation of Vergil by John Dryden in The Works of the

English Poets, from Chaucer to Cowper, Volume 19, ed. Samuel Johnson and Alexander Chalmers (London, 1810).

6 The first performance of Prometeo (Prometheus) was in

Venice (Church of San Lorenzo) and its original performance ‘space’ was a wooden ‘ark’, designed by Renzo Piano.

Stills from films made by Verdier of her live drawing to singing masterclasses at The Juilliard School, in 2014.

7 For more on this see Simon Shaw-Miller, Eye hEar The Visual

Breath Column No.19 (Hugo Wolf, Wordly Song), 0'43"

Breath Column No.13 (Handel, La Resurrezione Maria), 1'04"

Breath Column No.11 (Handel, La Resurrezione Maria), 0'35"

Breath Column No.9 (Puccini, La Rondine), 0'20"

in Music (Routledge, 2016).

8 See John C. Welchman, Invisible Colors: A Visual History of

Titles (Yale University Press, 1997).

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In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.

Notebooks

Voice / Vortex


Voice. Breath Column, Lab, The Juilliard School, New York, 2014. Cyclone in the West Indies. Mathematical vortex. Breath Column, The Juilliard School, New York, 2014. Dennis Oppenheim, Whirlpool, 1973. Visual references around the spiral. Ascending spiral of synchronic time.

Project ‘Sound Trace’, The Juilliard School, New York, 2014. Room ‘Breath Column’ with voice of soprano with Debussy. Room ‘Breath Column’ with voice of bass–baritone with Handel. Room ‘Breath Column’ with voice of tenor with Mozart’s aria. Room no. 4: ‘Voices Vortex’ with my Breath Column drawings. Experiment of immateriality and ‘suprapresence’ of a human voice in space through hologram technique (from our records of voices and videos of pure lines/dynamics of the singers). From my sketches.

Voice: n. f. late 10th century. From Latin ‘vox’, ‘vocis’ (vociferate), ‘voice’, ‘sound of the voice’ and ‘accent’ (also in music); used for ‘word’, ‘sentence’, in poetry for ‘language’. Acoustic phenomenon, human sound. A set of sounds produced by the vibrations of the vocal cords. Voice emission: see Sanskrit vāk. The Greek epos: ‘epic’. Amplitude, extent, pitch, inflection, intensity, range, timbre, volume, colour of the voice…

Vortex: n. m. Vortice 1630, ‘water vortex’ — 1845, from the Latin ‘vortex’, ‘water vortex’, then ‘wind, fire’ and ‘summit’ (from the head of a mountain). Derived from vertere: ‘to turn’. ‘Hollow Vortex’ which occurs in a flowing fluid.

Al Taylor, 1992. Was used in 1080 for the physical support of language. ‘Fire! Said the voice’, Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, 1862.

Meteorological: eddy atmospheric circulation; cyclone, tornado, whirlwind... Phonation, see studies by the physician and linguist Lafon in 1961 of the whirlpool processes forming the voice: ‘Breathing provides the breath of air and creates sound by generating whirlpools at the level of laryngeal narrowing.’ Antony Gormley, Feeling Material, 2003. Carl Andre, Margit Asleep, 1989. Hiroshi Nakamura, Ribbon Chapel. Maria Callas. Mars. Voice. Breath Column. Edith Wiens’ class, The Juilliard School, New York, 2014. Juilliard Experiment, New York, 2014. Seismographic sculpture. Fernand Léger, 1955. Georgia O’Keeffe, Series I no. 3, 1918. Oslo Opera House.

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Left: transcriptions, in English, of the written references in Fabienne Verdier’s notebooks (facing pages)


In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.


Breath Column: voice Edith Wiens, soprano, class 12–2014, New York. Aria by Mozart, Bella mia fiamma, addio / Resta o cara, K 528. Drawing, acrylic soft pastel on Moulin de Gué paper.

‘Music […], what will it be in song, where it becomes the picture of the human heart?’ Charles Batteux, Les Beaux-Arts Reduced to the Same Principle, 1746.

‘We must consider declamation as a line and song as another line which meanders over the first’ Denis Diderot, Le Neveu de Rameau, 1762–1775. To capture the sensation of this kinetic energy of the voices of the singers, I heard the formation in space of a sort of Vorticist diagram... Hear how the dynamic sound of the phrases is coiled and revolving through a centre of rotation. The movement, the invisible whirling shape of a vortex has imposed itself on me, upon the fluid instability in perpetuum mobile of the song. A sort of mobile mass, streams of life forces of the instinct and sensitivity of the human voice? Redefine and sing to the world using your inhalation and exhalation! This spin tightens in a centripetal momentum and then loosens in a centrifugal momentum. A self-contained spiral shape then arises from each voice in an alternating compensation of ebb and flow that brings forth life. Toward the expression of unity of being maintained by a singular cohesion of sound lines. ‘Nature tells us: sing!’ Victor Hugo, Les Contemplations XXI, 1856. Towards the joy of being? ‘[...] in its momentum resonates the form and expression of the imagination of the world. The vibration of an infinity captured by the moment...’ Emmanuel Bourreau, La Respiration du musicien, edilivre.com. ‘Omnis motus animi suum quendam a natura habet vultum et sonum et gestum.’ Cicero, De Oratore III, 57, 216: ‘Nature has given each passion, so to speak, its particular physiognomy, its accent, its gesture.’

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In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.


William Turner, Snowstorm at Sea, 1842. Vincent Van Gogh, The Starry Night (detail), 1889. Musical spiral. Agnes Denes, The Pyramid, 1975. Richard Serra, July 12, 2011. Richard Serra. ‘Molluscs’, pl. II, Universal Dictionary of Natural History, 1849.

In the natural sciences, vortex refers to an arrangement in concentric circles or in a helix of certain shells or organs. Shape [is] both structure of reality and structure of mind? Paul Klee, In the beginning, 1916.

‘It is this voice from the heart that only comes to the heart, what no other, after you, will ever give back to us’, Alfred de Musset, À la Malibran. Alexander Calder, 1970.

Break free from rigid, static representations towards deployment! Doesn’t nature frequently follow this turbulent momentum? DNA, blood pumped by the heart (cf. anatomical studies by da Vinci), weather phenomena, hurricanes, twisters, water movements in the oceans, galaxies, the Milky Way? Tropical cyclone.

Study William Turner’s storms and the creative energy of his brush that ‘puts the principle of the world into the abyss’. His paintings affect the viewer, who is carried away by the vortex that transforms him and ‘plunges him into the core of the present’. See Goethe’s letter to botanist E.H.F. Meyer, June 21, 1831, where he is ‘... absorbed by the vortex of the spiral form’. Pierre Boulez room (Berlin) designed by Frank Gehry. Al Taylor, On Becoming, 1992.

An archetype that drives him to become cross-disciplinary by combining different ways of thinking: ‘the theory of metamorphosis’ with his passion for the spontaneous spiral movement of floral structures!

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Anish Kapoor, Descension, Palace of Versailles, 2014. László Moholy-Nagy, 1923. Louise Bourgeois, Spirales, 2005. Nautilus. Frank Gehry, Pierre Boulez room, Berlin.


In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.


Whirling dervish.

The voice of the heart, of conscience, of nature, of blood, of the sky… ‘We inherited from our ancestors this ardent desire for a unified knowledge of the whole’, Erwin Schrödinger, 1945. Listening leads you to act! The sound man. Comes into vibration under the effect of a rhythmic nervous excitement... ‘The voice by the singer becomes incantation: the body translates the plastic by the eurhythmy of its movements ...’ Master Georges Migot, composer. Referring to Islam/Sufism and to its universal wisdom that urges introspective men towards an aspirational elevation. Annihilating oneself in sound/voice. ‘Several ways lead to God, I chose that of dance and music’, Al-Din Rûmî, Persian mystical poet, 12th century. Al–Din Rûmî, founder of the order of whirling dervishes. Samâ or cosmic dance. Spiritual listening practice, 9th century. To find this divine fusion and suspend the distance between man and its creator, the dervish has a ritual of rotating his body (in a vortex). Ascending circle, descending circle… It travels and ascends by spinning along the spheres of the manifested world. Force of flight, of incessant whirling around its axis. He sings with his voice the syllables ‘AL’ and ‘LAH’, summoning the divine once per turn in anticipation of union with his god of origin... ‘O day arise! Atoms dance, souls lost in ecstasy dance’, Omar Khayyam, Rubaiyat, 11th–12th centuries. Which leads him, from dizzy swirls, to ecstasy.

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In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.


Juilliard Experiments, 2014. Alberto Giacometti, Drawing I, 1951. Water vortex. Jasper Johns, Targets, 2003. Buster Keaton. Tokyo D. Block, 2003. Source unknown… Bruce Nauman, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths, 1967. Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1967.

‘Every line is a helical spiral’, Dr V. Ginzburg, mathematician and mechanical engineer.

Vortex drawing.

See ‘vortex theory’, Principles of Philosophy III, Descartes (1596–1650). He gave each vortex the name of ‘sky’, to be compared to ‘system’? ‘The atom is a vortex. The vortex is the fundamental particle of matter’, Sir William Thomson, Lord Kelvin. According to Vladimir Ginzburg, all the particles of the fundamental structures of the universe are animated by vortex! Shell. Wave phenomenon.

Spiral form = also whirling force of imagination in eternal movement... ‘The nature of infinity is this: that everything has its own vortex’, William Blake. You have the power to constantly recreate yourself! Lilli Lehmann, How to sing, 1902.

Invigorate yourself with singers, musicians. Desire for communion with others in a non-dualistic approach. Explore the relation of perceiving / receiving and co-being born through the language of the invisible voice! Tony Cragg. Richard Sweeney. Thérèse Bonney, Spiral Staircase by Robert Mallet–Stevens [Villa Martel], 1928. Louise Bourgeois, Spirals, 2005. Edward W. Quigley, Vortex, 1932. Alexander Calder, Josephine Baker, 1927. Sarah Vaughan, 1946. Carl Andre, 1995. Man Ray, Geometry. 26


In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.


Jasper Johns. Vincent Van Gogh, Starry Night in Saint Rémy, 1889. Alexander Calder, Self Portrait, 1930. Richard Long, Six Stone Circles, London, 1981. Anish Kapoor, Vortex, 2004.

Vorticism: n. m., 1933. Formed by a group of writers and visual artists around Wyndham Lewis, advocating systematic suggestion of movement and whirling dynamism. Karl Blossfeldt, Aspidium Filixmas, 1928. Robert Mangold, 2013.

‘The image is more than an idea. It is a vortex or cluster of fused ideas and is endowed with energy’, Ezra Pound. Andy Goldsworthy, Polar Vortex.

‘Visible harmony is only a balance in the perpetual search for its centre of gravity’, Élie Faure, Fonction du cinéma, 1981. Lawren Harris, Abstraction, 1964.

‘Let us place ourselves in the living centre of this developing world, like a nebula whose density is increasing and which an irresistible force drives with accelerated speed on the roads of becoming’, Élie Faure, Cinema, 2010, ed. Manucius. Breath Column: voice Thesele Kemane, 5–12–2014; Vincenzo Bellini, Vi Ravviso, notation no. 5. Richard Long, 1967.

‘The breath is the origin of rhythm’, Rainer Maria Rilke. ‘[...] sound is eminently suitable for being the echo of the soul’, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Aesthetics III, ‘Music’. ‘I came here to sing and for you to sing with me’, Pablo Neruda, General Song. ‘Thou single wilt prove none’, William Shakespeare, Sonnets [8], 1599.

28

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawings, 1986. Beaugrenelle Centre, designed by Denis Valode and Jean Pistre.


In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.


Horacio Garcia-Rossi, Progression, 1959. Lothar Charoux, Untitled, 1970. Hans Hartung, L. 51, 1973. Alberto Giacometti, drawing. Bridget Riley, Blaze Study, 1962. Anish Kapoor, Descension (vortex), 2014.

Descension: artwork installed in the flooring. Black water whirls in perpetual motion. The spiral energies constantly change the shape! Utagawa Hiroshige, Le Tourbillon de Naruto, 1855. Juilliard School, New York, 2014, Edith Wiens master class.

‘Descension’s vortex is a centrifugal force […]. The heart of Descension is obscure […]. It is a swirling black hole […], a force of nature.’ Anish Kapoor. ‘But when they spoke it was no longer the same. There were some kind of wells that were digging in the air, swirls, vortexes, and we were attracted.’ J.M.G. Le Clézio, Les Géants. Voix/Vortex, New York, 2014. Francis Bacon, 3 Self-portraits, 1970.

‘The edge of the whirl […], but no particle of this slipped into the mouth of the terrific funnel, whose interior, as far as the eye could fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and jet-black wall of water, […] speeding dizzily round and round with a swaying and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling voice…’, Edgar Allan Poe, A Descent into the Maelström, 1841. J.R. Eyerman, Hula hoop, 1958. Tony Cragg. Dances notations, 1700. Olafur Eliasson, Your Engagement Has Consequences, 2009. Louise Bourgeois. Ammonite. Eva Hesse, Ringaround Arosie, 1965.

30


In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.



In helix of fire on the blue of silence, the human voice.

A light trail leads there: breath, sigh, breath. Or else escapes, depending one’s perspective.

Source of song, of speech, servant of thought, provider of emotion, ally and adversary of reason,

vocal sound is a plunge, a vortex, a whirlwind of being.

The human voice will summon other voices, up to the voices of silence.

Poem by Alain Rey, originally published alongside VerdierĘźs paintings in the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary, 2018.

33


33

Solo ai nomi d’amor di diletto


34


3535



37

Left: Porgi amor, qualche ristoro al mio duolo, a miei sospir

Right: Ăˆ amore un ladroncello, un serpentello è amor


38


39

Voi che sapete che cosa è amor


40


41


42


43

Ma il morir non mi spaventa


44


45


46


47

Ah che tutta in un momento si cangiò la sorte mia!


48


49

Chi sà, chi sà, qual sia l’affanno del mio bene


50


51



53

La reine de la nuit (I)


54


55


56


57

Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio


58


59



61

Left: Alma grande e nobil core 

Right: Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben


62


63



Fabienne Verdier in Conversation

Ellen Mara De Wachter

Ellen Mara De Wachter  The breath has been an important tool for you in making the Vortex painting series. Why is breath so important and how have you worked with it? Fabienne Verdier  The breath has been a foundational element of my practice since the very beginning. Breath force has the power to outline and formalise both material and immaterial things. It offers an insight into the collective imagination and the collective unconscious, and it shows us how our presence in the world is constituted of vibrations. The capacity of breath energy to communicate in a spontaneous way is surprising and arresting; it takes hold of the soul like a mysterious song. In 2014, I took part in a project at The Juilliard School in New York to explore the spontaneous interaction between the line of sound and the visual line. I attended Edith Wiens’ masterclass for young opera singers, and tried to channel the phrasing of the live singing voice through the movements of my drawn line. I wondered: how can I develop, sculpt, and enrich its expressive potential? I had to go beyond the surface of the painting, beyond what the painter Nicolas de Staël referred to as the ‘wall’ or the ‘fixed plane’ of the painting, to find other dimensions and to free the twodimensional static representation of the voice. The body is a vibratory instrument. It is simultaneously a transmitter and a receptor. During the masterclass, I detected the proximity between the source energy, which the voice traces in space, and my paintings. I was suddenly interested in breath and sound gestures. Edith taught me how the position and breathing of the body can contribute to make the variations of my lines sing. By working in the manner of a song, Edith helped me develop a richer and more intense line, which expresses itself on the canvas in the three dimensions of space and in the fourth dimension of time. EMDW  This idea of working ‘in the manner of a song’ is intriguing. What did the process involve? FV  It took place over several arduous sessions. At first I worked on a sort of

topographical mapping of the dynamic aspects of voices, using linear writing, going from left to right like musical scores. But very quickly, I realised that wasn’t working. My drawings were becoming spectrograms more suited to the vibrations of an instrument such as the piano than to those of human song. Seeing Edith work with the bodies to whom these young voices belonged helped me understand that the voice needs to spring from the entire singing body, to expand into space thanks to its verticality. It challenges gravity and finds a circular upwards movement that approximates the weightlessness of song. The dynamic phrasing of the singing voices seems to spin around the bodies. This circulation of energy through the inhale and exhale and the modulation of breathing from the base of the spine to the top of the head made me think of an upwards vortex, which I call the ‘column of breath’. The meeting of the voice with my drawings generated something like an oscillogram, in which the pictorial representation of breath and song is not just a matter of drawing sequences, bars and phrasings, but constitutes a dynamic and continuous vertical flow, like an expansion. From there came the idea of the air column as a manifestation of a spirit singing the universe and its perceptible forms. For me, to paint is first of all about hearing through the imagination, and then it is about breathing into the pictorial matter.

65


EMDW  With this new series, you have returned to opera as a central theme and also a source of inspiration. How have you used opera in the making of these works, and what are the advantages of working in this multi-sensory way? FV  I chose not to interpret Mozart’s operas in their entirety, but instead to work

on fragments of arias whose rhythms provoke a wellspring of forms, through a kind of liquid ongoing dream, which occurs like a kind of aerial vertigo. The French philosopher and musicologist Vladimir Jankélévitch said that music is not hampered by meaning in the way that words are; it can touch the body and overwhelm it, provoke dance and song and tear humans away from themselves. There is an incredible melodic richness and clarity of language in Mozart’s arias. His music is intelligible in a mysterious way, and insights occur all of a sudden when I listen to it. I don’t exactly know how, or why. Through active listening, I see clear lines of energy in my mind’s eye. They spring forth, unfold and circulate through my imagination. They are put into movement with my paintbrush, in different moods, for example through changes of tempo —  fugato, lento, dark and enigmatic passages, triumphant ones, full of joy or anger. I must admit I am almost addicted to Mozart’s vitality, which enlivens me and offers an endless geyser of creativity.

EMDW  I am interested in the affective power of your paintings, by which I mean the complex impact they can have on people who encounter them. You have described this as a ‘metaphysical shock’. What does this mean? FV  For ten years, I learned from Chinese masters how to escape my own affects and to

express the unsettled nature of things with a sense of natural freedom and detachment. Then, when I was at The Juilliard School, I was asked to paint interpretations of the colour and movement of the human soul: its joy, melancholy and anger. I first approached this task from an angle that is very different from the lyrical tendencies of western art. I tried to paint a meteorological study of forces and of the variations in the way human nature is expressed, while maintaining the cool detachment that I developed over years of working with the process of painting. I think that someone who spends time in front of my paintings, depending on their personal experience, will receive a kind of metaphysical shock related to the vibratory power of the energy circulating around the canvas. That will trigger, in different ways for different people, memories of certain affects. It is surprising, but seems to me that these things might be connected and combined.

EMDW  The form and textures in your paintings evoke natural formations, such as bubbles on the surface of water, or textures of human skin, or tree bark, almost as if they were microcosms. Is this something you are trying to suggest in your work? FV  Yes, and I am happy that you see it too. I am fascinated by the rich life of matter,

which invites the collective imagination to reconnect with the living universe. These phenomena are the result of a vertical act of painting and the downward flow of the heavy load of acrylic paint my brushes can hold. Gravity causes the pictorial matter  —  the paint —  to run out from the internal supply of the paintbrush onto canvases laid out on the floor. My friend, the astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan, explained to me that all forms that originate on earth and in the universe were created and designed according to the same law of gravity. In the microcosm of the paint as it dries on the floor, we can find concretions, fluid textures and manifestations similar to those that can also be found in the matter of the universe.

EMDW  The vortex is evocative of a circular conception of time, which is common in Asian cosmologies, and opposed to the European notion of time as linear. Is this something you wanted to allude to with the new works?

66


FV  This is indeed the big shift I have made with this new series of paintings. With

these Vortexes, I am no longer in linear time, but in circular and oscillating time, which I find fascinating. My friend Alain Berthoz, a neuroscientist at the College de France, explained to me how the brain’s neurons operate through oscillating movements, as does the body in general, and therefore certainly the spirit too!

EMDW  To me, the vortex also reads as a visualisation of our turbulent world. Are you trying to evoke the dynamics of social and political life in your work? FV  I believe it was Elie Faure who said that visible harmony is just equilibrium in

perpetual search of its own centre of gravity. At the vibrating centre of this emerging world, one finds oneself as a nebula whose density increases as it is drawn with irresistible force and acceleration toward the future. This whirlwind dynamic is a universal movement, which can be found in many fields. The vortex is visible in DNA; in the way blood is pumped by the heart; in atmospheric phenomena such as hurricanes and tornados; in the movement of the oceans, galaxies and the Milky Way. Even the atom, the fundamental particle of all matter, is a vortex, according to the physicist Sir William Thomson. So why wouldn’t this essential dynamic of the world also influence social and political movements? The spiral, fluid, aerial and spontaneous energies in my recent paintings, with their rich modulations, also seem to me to be able to project the vibrations of human vocal cords into space and into the collective imagination. What is certain is that this vortical dynamic transforms and transports us all. It plunges us simultaneously into the heart of the present moment and connects us to space.

EMDW  You have married a profound embodiment of eastern philosophy with a painterly practice that has antecedents in 20th-century abstraction. How do you conceive of this trans-cultural ethos in your work? FV  I made a commitment to acquire ancient Chinese artistic, poetic and philosophical

knowledge by spending ten years in China when I was younger, and for more than 40 years now, I have worked to create a synthesis of our cultures to find a language of spontaneous abstraction in contemporary painting. Across these two cultures, I find an incredible richness of territories to explore. There are contradictions, new fields of perception, lines of tension, and movements that bring fresh blood and reviving ideas. The constant to-and-fro is demanding, but it ends up producing a new work ethic, which may offer a new aesthetic for art. If we want to represent the world, we cannot remain trapped in static forms of knowledge, such as photography or the laws of perspective. The universal energy, which manifests as the fundamental physical forces, traces the poetic forms of the world. It could open up a new way of life in painting.

67







73

Left: Palpito e tremo senza saper

Right: Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! Qual è l’affanno mio


74


75

Deh, vieni a consolar il pianto mio


76


77


78


79

Ridente la calma nell’alma si desti 


80


81

Sento un affeto pien di desir 


82


83


84


85

La reine de la nuit (II)


86


87

Left: Se tu lo lasci far

Right: All’eco, all’aria, ai venti


88


89



91

Left: Von dem Schicksal leiten

Right: Se de vedessi questo cor 


92


93


94


95

Drum kann ich froh und lustig sein


96


97

La reine de la nuit (III)


98


99


100


101

Deh, vieni alla finestra


102


103


104


105

Dove sono i bei momenti di dolcezza e di piacer  ?


106


107


108


109

Left: Toglietemi dal cor

Right: Meco ritorna in pace


110


111



113

Von Anbeginn war stetes Wandern


114


115



117

Left: Saper bramate, Bella, il mio nome

Right: Sentilo battere


118





122



124



126



128





132


133

Se de’ tormenti suoi, se de’ sospiri miei non sente il ciel pietà!


134


135

Vado, ma dove?


136


137

Siamo colonne di fedeltĂ



139


140


141

Ti ricorda il primo amor 


142


143



145

Left: Vivi: Cedi al destin

Right: Vado... ahi lasso!


146






List of Works

Paintings

35–36 Solo ai nomi d’amor di diletto, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 ×  135 cm

An echo of the aria Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio, from Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, K.492, Act 1, Scene 6. The painting’s title, Solo ai nomi d’amor di diletto, which translates into English as ‘At the mere mention of love, of delight’, is a phrase from the aria. 38 Porgi amor, qualche ristoro al mio duolo,

a miei sospir, 2020 acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 ×  135 cm

An echo of the aria Porgi amor, qualche ristoro al mio duolo, a miei sospir! (O Love, give me some remedy, For my sorrow, for my sighs!), from Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, K.492, Act 2, Scene 1. 39 È amore un ladroncello, un serpentello

è amor, 2020 acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 ×  135 cm

An echo of the aria È amore un ladroncello, from Mozart’s opera ‘Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amant’, K.588, Act 2, Scene 10. The painting’s title, E amore un Ladroncello, un serpentello e amor, which translates into English as ‘Love is a little thief, a little serpent is he’, is a phrase from the aria. 41–43 Voi che sapete che cosa è amor, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 ×  137 cm

An echo of the aria Voi, che sapete, from Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, K.492, Act 2, Scene 2. The painting’s title, Voi che sapete che cosa e amor, which translates into English as ‘You who know what love is’, is a phrase from the aria. 45–47 Ma il morir non mi spaventa, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 ×  137 cm An echo of the aria Deh, per questo instante solo, from Mozart’s opera ‘La clemenza di Tito’, K.621, Act 2, Scene 2. The painting’s title, Ma il morir non mi spaventa, which translates into English as ‘But death does not frighten me’, is a phrase from the aria.

49 Ah che tutta in un momento si cangiò la sorte

mia!, 2020 acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 ×  137 cm

An echo of the aria Che tutta in un momento, from Mozart’s opera ‘Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amant’, K.588, Act 1, Scene 14. The painting’s title, Ah che tut in un moment

151

si cangio la sorte mia!, which translates into English as ‘Ah, how my lot has changed, All in a moment!’, is a phrase from the aria. 51–52 C hi sà, chi sà, qual sia l’affanno del mio

bene, 2020 acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm

An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Chi sà, chi sà qual sia?, K.582. The painting’s title, Chi sà, chi sà qual sia l’affanno del mio bene, which translates into English as ‘I wonder, I wonder what is the cause of my love’s agitation?’, is a phrase from the aria. 54–57 La reine de la nuit (I), 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 406 cm An echo of Mozart’s opera ‘Die Zauberflöte’, K.620. The painting’s title, La reine de la nuit, which translates into English as ‘The Queen of the Night’, relates to the opera’s central character.

59–60 Non so piu cosa son, cosa faccio, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 1 35 cm

An echo of the aria Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio (I no longer know what I am or what I do), from Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, K.492, Act 1, Scene 6. 62 A lma grande e nobil core, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Alma grande e nobil core (A great soul and noble heart), K.578.

63–64 R uhe sanft, mein holdes Leben, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm

An echo of the aria Ruhe sanft, mein holdes Leben (Rest gently, my dearest Beloved), from Mozart’s unfinished opera ‘Zaide’, K.344, Act 1, Scene 1. 73–74 Palpito e tremo senza saper, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm An echo of the aria Voi, che sapete, from Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, K.492, Act 2, Scene 2. The painting’s title, Palpito e tremo senza saper, which translates into English as ‘I twitter and tremble without knowing why’, is a phrase from the aria.

75 Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! Qual è l’affanno

mio, 2020 acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm

An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!, K.418. The painting’s title, Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio! Qual è l’affanno mio, which translates into English as ‘Let me explain, oh God! What my grief is’, is a phrase from the aria.

77–79 D eh, vieni a consolar il pianto mio, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183  ×   1 35 cm

An echo of the aria Deh, vieni alla finestra, from Mozart’s opera ‘Don Giovanni’, K.527, Act 2, Scene 1. The painting’s title, Deh, vieni a consular il paint mio, which translates into English as ‘O come and dispel all my sorrow’, is a phrase from the aria. 81 R idente la calma nell’alma si desti, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183  ×   1 35 cm

An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Ridente la calma, K.152. The painting’s title, Ridente la calma nell’alma si desti, which translates into English as ‘May a joyful calm rise in the soul’, is a phrase from the aria. 83–85 Sento un affeto pien di desir, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212  ×   1 37 cm An echo of the aria Voi, che sapete, from Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, K.492, Act 2, Scene 2. The painting’s title, Sento un affetto, pien di desir, which translates into English as ‘I have a feeling, full of desire’, is a phrase from the aria.

86–87 L a reine de la nuit (II), 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183  ×   4 06 cm An echo of Mozart’s opera ‘Die Zauberflöte’, K.620. The painting’s title, La reine de la nuit, which translates into English as ‘The Queen of the Night’, relates to the opera’s central character.

88 Se tu lo lasci far, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183  ×   1 35 cm An echo of the aria È amore un ladroncello, from Mozart’s opera ‘Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amant’, K.588, Act 2, Scene 10. The painting’s title, Se tu lo lasci far, which translates into English as ‘If you let him do (it)’, is a phrase from the aria.

89–90 A ll’eco, all’aria, ai venti, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183  ×   1 35 cm

An echo of the aria Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio?, from Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, K.492, Act 1, Scene 6. The painting’s title, All’eco, all’aria, ai venti, which translates into English as ‘To the echoes, the air, the winds’, is a phrase from the aria. 92 Von dem Schicksal leiten, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212  ×   1 37 cm An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Nehmt meinen Dank, ihr holden Gönner!, K.383. The painting’s title, Von dem Schicksal leiten, which translates into English as ‘destiny has decreed it’, is a phrase from the aria.


93–95 Se vedessi questo cor, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 137 cm An echo of the aria Deh, per questo instante solo, from Mozart’s opera ‘La clemenza di Tito’, K.621, Act 2, Scene 2. The painting’s title, Se vedessi questo cor, which translates into English as ‘If you could see this heart’, is a phrase from the aria.

97 Drum kann ich froh und lustig sein, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 135 cm

An echo of the aria Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja, from Mozart’s opera ‘Die Zauberflöte’, K.620, Act 1, Scene 1. The painting’s title, Drum kann ich froh und lustig sein, which translates into English as ‘Therefore I can be happy and funny’, is a phrase from the aria. 98–101 La reine de la nuit (III), 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 406 cm An echo of Mozart’s opera ‘Die Zauberflöte’, K.620. The painting’s title, La reine de la nuit, which translates into English as ‘The Queen of the Night’, relates to the opera’s central character.

103–105 Deh, vieni alla finestra, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 135 cm An echo of the aria Deh, vieni alla finestra (O, come to the window), from Mozart’s opera ‘Don Giovanni’, K.527, Act 2, Scene 1.

107–109 Dove sono i bei momenti di dolcezza

e di piacer?, 2020 acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 137 cm

An echo of the aria Dove sono i bei momenti, di dolcezza e di piacer? (Where are the lovely moments, of sweetness and pleasure?), from Mozart’s opera ‘Le nozze di Figaro’, K.492, Act 3, Scene 11. 110 Toglietemi dal cor, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 135 cm An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Chi sà, chi sà qual sia?, K.582. The painting’s title, Toglietemi dal cor, which translates into English as ‘That which assails my heart’, is a phrase from the aria.

111–113 Meco ritorna in pace, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 135 cm An echo of the aria Parto, parto ma tu ben mio, from Mozart’s opera ‘La clemenza di Tito’, K.621, Act 1, Scene 9. The painting’s title, Meco ritorna in pace, which translates into English as ‘Make peace again with me’, is a phrase from the aria.

115–116 Von Anbeginn war stetes Wandern, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 1 35 cm

An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Nehmt meinen Dank, ihr holden Gönner!, K.383. The painting’s title, Von Anbeginn war stetes Wandern, which translates into English as ‘Since time began, the Fates decided’, is a phrase from the aria.

146 Vivi: Cedi al destin, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212  ×   1 37 cm An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Bella mia fiamma, addio!, K.528. The painting’s title, Vivi: Cedi al destin, which translates into English as ‘Live: Yield to fate’, is a phrase from the aria.

147–148 Vado… ahi lasso!, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212  ×   1 37 cm

118 Saper bramate, Bella, il mio nome, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm

An echo of the aria Saper bramate, from Paisiello’s opera ‘Il barbiere di Siviglia’, R.1.64, Act 1, Scene 6. The painting’s title, Saper bramate, Bella, il mio nome, which translates into English as ‘To yearn, my beauty, for my name’, is a phrase from the aria. 119–120 Sentilo battere, 2020

An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Bella mia fiamma, addio!, K.528. The painting’s title, Vado… ahi lasso!, which translates into English as ‘I go ... alas!’, is a phrase from the aria.

Works on Paper

123

oice Breath Column III, 2014 V (Edith Wiens class 12.2014) oil pastel on Arches vellum 80  ×   62 cm

125

oice Breath Column VI, 2014 V (Edith Wiens class 12.2014) oil pastel on Arches vellum 80  ×   62 cm

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 1 35 cm An echo of the aria Vedrai, Carino from Mozart’s opera ‘Don Giovanni’, K.527, Act 2, Scene 1. The painting’s title, Sentilo battere, which translates into English as ‘Then feel it beating’, is a phrase from the aria.

133, 135 Se de’ tormenti suoi, se de’ sospiri miei

127 Voice Breath Column V, 2014

(Edith Wiens class 12.2014) oil pastel on Arches vellum 80  ×   62 cm

non sente il ciel pietà!, 2020 acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm

An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Vado, ma dove? oh Dei!, K.583. The painting’s title, Se de’ tormenti suoi, se de’ sospiri miei, non sente il ciel pietà!, which translates into English as ‘For your torments, for my sighs, does heaven feel no pity!’, is a phrase from the aria. 137 Vado, ma dove?, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm An echo of Mozart’s concert aria Vado, ma dove? oh Dei!, (I go, but where? Oh Gods!), K.583.

139–141 Siamo colonne di fedeltà, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 183 × 1 35 cm An echo of the aria Ogni momento dicon le donne, from Mozart’s opera ‘L’oca del Cairo’, K.422, Act 1, Scene 6. The painting’s title, Siamo colonne di fedeltà, which translates into English as ‘We are pillars of loyalty’, is a phrase from the aria.

143–144 Ti ricorda il primo amor, 2020

acrylic and mixed media on canvas 212 × 1 37 cm An echo of the aria Deh, per questo instante solo, from Mozart’s opera ‘La clemenza di Tito’, K.621, Act 2, Scene 2. The painting’s title, Ti ricorda il primo amor, which translates into English as ‘Remember the first affections’, is a phrase from the aria.

129 Voice Breath Column VIIII, 2014

(Edith Wiens class 12.2014) oil pastel on Arches vellum 80  ×   62 cm

Notebooks

19 P late 1, 2017

drawings, texts and collages on Arches vellum 30  ×   4 6 cm

21 P late 2, 2017

drawings, texts and collages on Arches vellum 30  ×   4 6 cm

23 P late 3, 2017

drawings, texts and collages on Arches vellum 30  ×   4 6 cm

25 P late 4, 2017

drawings, texts and collages on Arches vellum 30  ×   4 6 cm

27 P late 5, 2017

drawings, texts and collages on Arches vellum 30  ×   4 6 cm

29 P late 6, 2017

drawings, texts and collages on Arches vellum 30  ×   4 6 cm

31 P late 7, 2017

drawings, texts and collages on Arches vellum 30  ×   4 6 cm

152



Biography

1962 Born in Paris 1983 Graduates from École supérieure des beaux-arts, Toulouse 1984 Awarded a post-graduate scholarship to study at the

Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, Chongqing

1984 – 93 Studies painting, aesthetics and philosophy at the

Sichuan Fine Arts Institute with some of the last great traditional masters of painting and calligraphy

2003 Publication of Passagère du silence: Dix ans d’initiation

en Chine (Éditions Albin Michel, Paris), a memoir of years of apprenticeship with Master Huang Yuan

Collaborates with architect Jean Nouvel on the design for the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), Beijing 2014 Commissioned by Unibail-Rodamco for a monumental

work, Majunga Tower, La Défense, Paris

Artist-in-residence at The Juilliard School, New York 2016 Release of The Juilliard Experiment, a documentary film

by Mark Kidel

Work acquired by Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, and The Juilliard School, New York

Work acquired by Musée Cernuschi, Paris

Commission by Shiseido Group to produce two large paintings for their Paris headquarters

2007 Publication of monograph Between Heaven and Earth

2017 Artist-in-residence at Festival d’Aix-en-Provence, France

and collected interviews Entretien avec Fabienne Verdier, both by Charles Juliet (Éditions Albin Michel, Paris)

Four large works commissioned by the Hubert Looser Fondation, Zurich, to create a dialogue with selected works from the collection (John Chamberlain, Donald Judd, Willem de Kooning, Ellsworth Kelly and Cy Twombly)

Makes 22 paintings for the 50th anniversary edition of Le Petit Robert dictionary Work acquired by Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich 2018 Designs stained-glass windows for Eglise Saint-Laurent,

Nogent-sur-Seine, France

Work acquired by Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris

Awarded commission to design the official poster for Roland-Garros French Open

2010 Receives commission of two monumental works for

Establishes nomadic painting studio project on Sainte-Victoire Mountain, France

Release of documentary film by Philippe Chancel, Fabienne Verdier: Flux, on the development of the two Palazzo Torlonia works; accompanying publication by Eric Fouache and Corinna Thierolf (Editions Xavier)

2019 Commissioned to create a stamp for the French Post’s

the Palazzo Torlonia, Rome

2012 Publication of Fabienne Verdier: Painting Space, by

Doris von Drathen (Edizioni Charta, Milan/New York)

2013 Documentary film by Mark Kidel, Fabienne Verdier,

peindre l’instant, produced for France Télévisions by Les Films d’Ici, broadcast on France5

Philately Program

Major retrospective exhibition at Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence, France 2020 Reconnects with experiences at The Juilliard School

to begin a series of important new paintings inspired by the residency

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Selected Solo Exhibitions

Selected Group Exhibitions

2020

Vortex, Waddington Custot, London

2019 Picasso – Gorky – Warhol. Sculptures and Works on Paper,

2019

ur les terres de Cézanne, Musée Granet and Musée S du Pavillon de Vendôme, Aix-en-Provence

Autour d’un timbre, Galerie Lelong, Paris

2018

Ainsi La Nuit, Galerie Lelong, Paris

Hubert Looser Collection, Kunsthaus Zürich (curated by Florian Steininger)

Un Autre Œil, Musée de l’Abbaye Sainte-Croix (MASC), Les Sables d’Olonne (curated by Daniel Abadie) 2018 Picasso – Gorky – Warhol. Sculptures and Works on Paper,

Hubert Looser Collection, Kunsthalle Krems (curated by Florian Steininger)

2017 Vide –  Vibration, Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne

The Experience of Language, Musée Voltaire, Bibliothèque de Genève, Geneva Silencieuses – Coïncidences, Galerie Lelong, Paris 2016

Rhythms and Reflections, Waddington Custot, London

Soundscapes – The Juilliard Experiment, Patrick Derom Gallery, Brussels

Un Autre Œil, d’Appollinaire à aujourd’hui, Musée d’Art Contemporain (LAAC) de Dunkerque and Musée de l’Hospice Saint-Roch, Issoudun (curated by Daniel Abadie) 2017 Passion de l’Art, Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence

Restless Gestures, Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo

2015

L’Œil écoute, Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne

Fabienne Verdier meets Sigmar Polke. Talking Lines, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

2014

Crossing Signs, Hong Kong City Hall, Hong Kong

2016 Rodin – Giacometti – Pollock – Twombly  –   Rothko  –

Serra… The Looser Collection. Dialogues. Museum Folkwang, Essen (curated by Mario von Lüttichau and Florian Steininger)

2013 The Spirit of Painting: A Tribute to the Flemish

Renaissance, Groeninge Museum, Bruges

The Spirit of Painting, Memling Museum (St. John Hospital), Bruges The Spirit of Painting: Note and Notebooks, Erasmus House, Brussels Art Plural Gallery, Singapore

Fioretti, Patrick Derom Gallery, Brussels

Energy Fields, Galerie Jaeger Bucher, Paris 2009–10 Painting, Galerie Jaeger Bucher, Paris

The World Meets Here, Custot Gallery Dubai, United Arab Emirates 2015 Königsklasse III, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

(curated by Corinna Thierolf)

Q uinte – E ssence, Galerie Jaeger Bucher, Paris C réations 2015, Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne 2014 Formes Simples, Centre Pompidou-Metz (curated by

Jean de Loisy)

2005 Abstraction spontanée, Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne

2004 Abbaye de Silvacane, Provence

Köningsklasse II, Schloss Herrenchiemsee, Herreninsel (organised by Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; curated by Corinna Thierolf)

2003 Galerie Ariane Dandois, Paris 2001 Chapelle des Beaux-Arts, Paris 1997 Pacific Cultural Foundation, Taipei 1996 Galerie Joyce Ma, Palais Royal, Paris 1995 Galerie Joyce Ma, Palais Royal, Paris 1993 Contemporary Art Centre, Hong Kong 1992 Maison de la Chine, Paris 1991 French Cultural Centre, Beijing 1989 Fine Arts Museum, Chongqing 1983 Palais des beaux-arts, Toulouse

Flux, Art Plural Gallery, Singapore

2013 The Hubert Looser Collection, Kunsthaus Zürich (curated

by Philippe Büttner)

2012 My Private Passion – Foundation Hubert Looser,

Kunstforum Wien, Vienna (curated by Florian Steininger)

Waddington Custot, London 2011 Un souffle venue d’Asie, regards croisés, Contemporary

Art Center, Abbaye de Beaulieu-en-Rouergue

Not for Sale, Art Center Passage de Retz, Paris A rt of Deceleration – Motion and Rest in Art from Caspar David Friedrich to Ai Weiwei, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg (curated by Markus Brüderlin) 2009 e lles@centrepompidou, Centre Pompidou, Musée national

d’art moderne, Paris (curated by Camille Morineau)

2008 E xpansion Résonance, Galerie Jaeger Bucher, Paris 2007 Peintures, dessins, sculptures et estampes, Galerie Alice

Pauli, Lausanne

2006 A ccrochages, Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne 2005 O euvres sur Papier, Galerie Alice Pauli, Lausanne 1990 C ontemporary Brushstrokes, National Art Museum of

China, Beijing

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Selected Public Collections

Further Reading

Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris

2019 Sur les terres de Cézanne (exhibition catalogue),

Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, Paris Fondation Hubert Looser, Zurich The Juilliard School, New York

Aix-en-Provence: Musée Granet

2018 Rey, Alain and Verdier, Fabienne: Le Robert, 50 th

anniversary edition, Paris: Dictionnaires Le Robert

2017 Restless Gestures: Collection Hubert Looser (exhibition

catalogue), Oslo: Nasjonalmuseet

Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich Majunga Tower, Unbail-Rodamco, La Défense, Paris

Rey, Alain and Verdier, Fabienne: Polyphonies, Paris: Éditions Le Robert & Albin Michel

Ministère de l’Équipement (Direction de l’Architecture), Paris

Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing Musée Barbier-Mueller, Geneva Musée de la Poste, Paris Musée Cernuschi, Paris Musée Granet, Aix-en-Provence Nasjonalmuseet, Oslo Palais de l’Assemblée Nationale, Paris Palazzo Torlonia, Roma Pinault Collection, Paris and Venice Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich Sigg Collection, Mauensee Written Art Fondation, Frankfurt

abienne Verdier Meets Sigmar Polke. Talking Lines F (exhibition catalogue), Munich: Pinakothek der Moderne

2016 Sammlung Looser (exhibition catalogue), Essen: Museum

Folkwang

hythms and Reflections (exhibition catalogue), London: R Waddington Custot

Verdier, Fabienne: The Juilliard Experiment, online 2015 ‘Art Passions  —   Fabienne Verdier’, Revue suisse d’art

et de culture, no.42, Geneva

2014 Abadie, Daniel: Crossing Signs, Paris: Éditions Albin Michel 2013 von Drathen, Doris: Fabienne Verdier: Painting Space,

Milan: Edizioni Charta

Vanautgaerden, Alexandre: Les Maîtres Flamands, Notes et Carnets, Paris: Éditions Albin Michel Abadie, Daniel: L’Esprit de la Peinture, Hommage aux Maîtres Flamands, Paris: Éditions Albin Michel 2011 Fabienne Verdier: Palazzo Torlonia, Paris: Éditions

Xavier Barral

2007 Juliet, Charles: Entretien avec Fabienne Verdier, Paris:

Éditions Albin Michel

Verdier, Fabienne: Entre Ciel et Terre, Paris: Éditions Albin Michel 2005 Verdier, Fabienne: Passagère du Silence, Paris: Éditions

Albin Michel

2001 Verdier, Fabienne: L’Unique Trait de Pinceau, Paris:

Éditions Albin Michel

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Waddington Custot would like to thank all at the Verdier Studio for their inspiration and assistance in the organisation of this beautiful exhibition. The gallery would also like to thank writers Alain Rey, Fray Wells-Smith, Simon Shaw-Miller and Ellen Mara De Wachter for their insightful contributions.

Fabienne Verdier Vortex 6 October  —  1 7 November 2020 First published in the United Kingdom in 2020 by Waddington Custot. Waddington Custot 11 Cork Street London W1S 3LT Official copyright © 2 020 Waddington Custot, London Artworks © Fabienne Verdier, 2020 Portrait and studio photography © Benjamin McMahon, 2020 Artwork photography © I nès Dieleman, 2020 pp.6–7 © Wells Fray-Smith pp.12–13 © S imon Shaw-Miller p.17 © A lain Rey pp.66–68 © E llen Mara De Wachter All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording or other information storage and retrieval systems, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. Designed by A Practice for Everyday Life Printed and bound in London by PUSH Edited by Louise Malcolm ISBN 978-1-9164568-6-0 To find out more about Waddington Custot publications, please visit waddingtoncustot.com, where you can browse our catalogues and buy any titles that are of interest. Back cover: Se de vedessi questo cor, 2020 (detail)




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