Geneviève Asse

1923Vannes, France | 2021Paris, France

French painter.

For Geneviève Asse freedom, while growing up, meant solitude. On the Rhuys peninsula in Brittany, where she and her twin brother were left in their grandmother’s care, she immersed herself in the immensity of the sky and the sea, and in the vast library of the Bonnervo manor. In Paris she discovered the work of Chardin, and felt a deep connection with his paintings. Her first still lifes surfaced in 1940; “I was drawn to simple objects: boxes, bottles, inkwells, glasses”, she said. At that time World War II was looming. When war broke out, Asse became committed to the cause of liberation, joining the UNEF (National Union of French Students), and the FFI (French Forces of the Interior, a group of the French Resistance). She later joined the 1st Armored division of the African army as an ambulance driver, and finally at the end of the war, participated in the repatriation of French Jews from the Terezin camp (where Robert Desnos had recently died).
At the same time, despite financial difficulties, she became involved in painting. She painted with only three tubes of color—black, white, ocher—her early still lifes soon becoming the iridescent spray of the sea. At the 1942 salon for artists under 30, she met the collector Jean Bauret, who provided her with a barn in which to paint; thus her paintings gained breadth, slowly evolving towards atmospheric landscapes, pale and gray, or haloed in light. At this point, the sea horizons of her childhood began to materialize on the blank canvas, with vertical door-like openings down the center. This motif, however, eventually disappeared in the search of more infinite imagery; the space opened up, and it is precisely this opening that, in the 1970s, became the theme of her work.

After her earlier door and window-like openings, she began to create simple rays of light amongst the blue. It was this blue which, in 1980, carried the weight of her paintings, and completed their release. Everything fades, and all that is left on the canvas, or the book, is the soft vibration that has the gift to move, or the strength and the will of a drawn or etched line. The work of art is the reflection of the temperament.  Asse’s atelier echoes this style of work; the asceticism, the order, the concentration of the eye, the contemplation, and finally the hard-won freedom. The only objects adorning the empty space: a fan, an African sculpture of a bird, and the image of an angel by Giotto.

Anne Lemonnier

Translated from French by Emily Freeman.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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