a woman under the influence
Henriette Zéphir (b. 1920) has, in her own words, devoted the past half-century to “the occult”. She was discovered in 1967 by Jean Dubuffet, who exhibited her work at the Musée des Arts décoratifs in Paris, and wrote an article on her. She consistently refused every offer to buy her works ever since, until recently, when her “guides” began encouraging her to distribute their positive energy.
Spiritualist artists, once plentiful in Art Brut collections, are now rare and precious. Like her predecessors Fernand Desmoulin, Augustin Lesage, Madge Gill, and many others, Henriette Zéphir raises the eternal question of the significance of such creativity, particularly when it is not intended to be “art” as such, but rather to reveal the unfamiliar dimensions of a mysterious “elsewhere”… which may lie deep within every one of us. When such creators declare themselves to be mere instruments for their guiding powers, they are not simply downplaying their mastery of the creative process, but also echoing Dubuffet’s own thoughts on art: “its fi nest moments are when it forgets what it is called”.
The retrospective, entitled A woman under the influence, highlights the power, generosity, and beauty of Henriette Zéphir’s meandering lines of energy, inviting us to delve into the “elsewhere” and embark on a journey of exploration into our inner selves.
For half a century, Henriette Zéphir, a French mediumistic artist, devoted herself entirely to her “inner guide”, for which she never stopped creating. Her drawings captivate in their singular overall composition, but also in the force of its details. Halfway between pointillism, geometric abstraction and Fauvism, her work reflects an enlightened modernism. Discovered by Jean Dubuffet, she was presented, as early as 1967, in the historical exhibition of art brut at the Musée des Art Décoratifs (France). Today, her work is seen among the largest collections of art brut in the world, such as that of Arnulf Rainer, while the gallery dedicated a monograph to her in 2010.
Preface : Alain Bouillet
Forewords : Christian Berst
Catalog published to mark the exhibition Henriette Zéphir : a woman under the influence, from february 4th to march 5th, 2011.
Co-published with éditions Le livre d’art, 2010.