The Galerie Catherine Putman is pleased to present a new exhibition of works by Geneviève Asse, a prominent figure in French painting. Born in Vannes in 1923, Geneviève Asse—who has never belonged to a school or been part of movement, and does not follow fashions—practises painting, drawing, and engraving.
The selection of works in the exhibition, which is in line with the gallery’s area of interest, highlights her works on paper: drawings, oils on paper, heightened engravings, dry points, and aquatints. Presented with a selection of oils on canvas in different formats, the works on paper, which are less well known, are a fundamental part of the artist’s oeuvre.
Geneviève Asse’s works are characterised by a quest for light and space.
Geneviève Asse describes herself as a dreamy child; she discovered nature and light through the windows of her maternal grandmother’s home in Brittany, and, when she moved to Paris to live with her mother, with whom she travelled to Belgium and the Netherlands, she continued her musings in the museums. She developed an enduring fascination with light and architecture, particularly religious architecture, driven by her discovery of the Dutch painter Saenredam (1597–1665).
The three ‘Ouverture Sénanque’ drawings (1971) presented in the exhibition are part of her work focusing on the architecture and light in Cistercian abbeys. Executed in the same year as the white canvas Sénanque (1971) (the Musée National d’Art Moderne) and Sénanque 1 (1971) (the Musée de Brou in Bourg-en-Bresse) in subtle shades of blue, these drawings attest to her fascination with the purity of the architecture, the simplicity, and the oblique light that reveals spaces. The treatment of these drawings reflects the same quest for evanescence that exists in the large canvases, created by means of light pencilling in grey and blue that soften the rigour of the horizontal and vertical intrusions. A more radical version of this approach was present the following year in a drawing entitled Horizontale lumière, in which the white area of the paper was simply constructed by a horizon line drawn with graphite and then blurred.
This mixture of graphite and blue crayon, combining lines and light pencilling can also be seen in other works dating from the 1970s, executed with pencil and ink on paper in very small formats, similar to those in her sketchbooks.
Geneviève Asse’s works on paper include engravings—usually executed with dry point—, which are indissociable from drawings in her oeuvre. Engraving has the same interiority, simply enabling her to ‘draw in a much sharper and more incisive way’,* and in her dry point works there is the same division of spaces in which there is no sense of volume, with more accentuated lines.
Her engravings—such as Triangle lumière (1976) and Ouverture bleue et blanche (1980)—were sometimes heightened with oils; they became an architectural element within the painting.
Lastly, the exhibition features paintings, executed on canvas or paper. Two very fine oils on paper, Ouverture lumière (1975), Tracé de lumière (1976), and two small oils on canvas dating respectively from 1972 and 1973, echo—due to their purity and transparency—the major white canvas paintings dating from this period. And a selection of canvases in various formats, dating from the 1970s to the 2000s, attest to the artist’s experiments with blue, and representations of the sea and the sky, which are rainswept or darkened by storms.