Marie-Hélène Fabra

Works between Paris, Normandy, La Ciotat and Berlin.


My training period: theatre and painting

I graduated from the Beaux Arts in Paris in 1987. At the same time, I studied Art History at the Ecole du Louvre and founded a street theatre company with some friends.

My generation grew up with painters who pushed the sign-signature to the extreme: Toroni’s brush, Buren’s stripe, Viallat’s sponge. I know I’m not the only one to have gone against the grain of this art of constraint and concept and turned to narrative figuration. On the other hand, there are fewer of us who consider the question of social art, which has played an important part in my approach: the twelve years I spent running art workshops in prisons and psychiatric institutions led me to produce films, frescoes and illustrations with my pupils that I consider to be works in their own right.

For the past 6 years, I have been discovering the art of working glass with a blowtorch and a kiln.

Getting around

… are strange moments when we are “in between”: neither quite there nor quite here. Who am I now? That’s why I have countless notebooks and travel notes, which are meditative exercises. Sometimes I hold back these moments to create something more complete, when I feel that my sketches don’t exhaust the subject; that a particular journey or daily transport involves a part of myself. Travelling always destabilises me, because I spend my time testing the limits of who I am. Movement means putting ourselves in a position to be different and, at the same time, in the need to be ourselves.


… has played a big part in my family: my father is the son of a Spanish emigrant and my mother was Romanian. I grew up with these notions of uprootedness, loss and displacement. My grandparents’ imprisonment in Romanian camps, where my grandfather died, taught me about tragedy from a very early age.

The path I’m tracing

… is a dialogue between artists I admire and the things I experience, see and imagine. I paint landscapes and figures, not many objects. I work in series defined by subject, technique and palette. Each work is both independent and linked to the other works in the series to which it belongs, which is why I attach great importance in my exhibitions to the way in which the paintings and drawings relate to each other.

My first studio, in Argenteuil, inspired me to paint suburban landscapes. The second was in Paris: I fed off films and advertising images. A residency in Berlin helped me to articulate my sketches in a different way, by composing vast ‘disordered’ drawings. When my mother died in 2009, I rediscovered a family archive from which I drew inspiration to paint from old photograph albums and write a book published in Romania and France. Three years spent making two films based on tragedies by Sophocles performed with prisoners at Fresnes were the starting point for my work on mythology and storytelling, which I continue to pursue to this day. For the last two years, the question of the end of the world, not as a personal conviction but as a belief of my time, has inspired me to paint characters lost in polar landscapes.

I exhibit in art centres, foundations, galleries and fairs in France and abroad: Germany, Romania, Argentina and Italy.

My paintings have been bought by Le Frac Ile-de-France, La collection Mac-Donald, La collection des Beaux Arts de Paris, La fondation Écureuil, La fondation Colas.

I regularly organise events with other artists: workshops, exhibitions and screenings.