Watching humans make things—whether artists, chefs, ceramicists, or computer engineers—is often mesmerizing. Few artists, however, have as hypnotic a process as Fabienne Verdier, who is captured at work in several videos viewable online. An abstract French painter with ten gruelling years of training in traditional Chinese calligraphy under her belt, Verdier channels techniques and principles of the Zen masters into monumental, gestural compositions that fuse the Eastern practice with the tradition of Western Abstract Expressionism. For Verdier, that decade living in a politically tumultuous China was rigorous and austere (and often physically and emotionally strenuous), but an experience that took her deep into China’s Sacred Mountains and on a path of artistic evolution that has led to a unique and holistic practice.
Adding pigment to her repertoire of inks and scaling up her compositions, Verdier now uses, among other tools, a giant, bespoke brush drawn from the hair of 35 horses, capable of holding 60 liters of paint, and suspended from the ceiling of her studio. In videos of her process, Verdier can be seen willing herself into a meditative state and allowing her body to feel the weighted swing of the pendulous brush, in a perfect symbiosis between artist and material. She guides it, continuously, across canvases spread across the floor, leaving swathes of colorful, viscous paint, bending and curving according to the artist’s movement. The resulting works are rich, poetic, and vital compositions, whose energetic marks reflect both the artist’s intense training and personal philosophies.
“I don’t believe one is in control when one creates,” she says. “It’s an illusion, because we are no more than specks of dust in space. But when I put myself at the centre of gravity by standing up and moving with the brush, I feel I am tapping into these forces and the truth that’s transmitted goes far beyond me as an individual.”
May 4–8, 2018, Park Avenue Armory