Ask artist Nadia Barbotin what defines her abstract paintings, and she’ll tell you she is obsessed with transparencies and light. Like the Impressionists of the nineteenth century, Barbotin manages to capture that ethereal element, and light permeates her paintings, whether on canvas, paper, or Plexiglas.
Emotion, color, and light are the muses of this artist, who was born in Brest, France. Sometimes Barbotin begins a painting with a specific idea in mind; other times she faces off with a blank canvas and lets the image arise spontaneously. “I get inspiration from everything around me,” Nadia notes. “It could be from a piece of music, an emotion, the light in a particular moment.” Because she has been singing for 20 years, music informs the rhythm of many of her works, nearly all of which display a marked verticality.
Though her work stems from emotion, she acknowledges that some viewers might see a more representational aspect to her paintings. “I have one foot in abstraction, and one foot in figuration,” the artist says. “I want you to connect with my paintings and feel the vibrations.”
The translucent light and vibrant colors on her canvases match her personality. Enthusiasm flashes across her face as she describes the many types of media she tackles: ink, oils, acrylics, charcoal, chalk, clay. There is seemingly no limit to what she will try. “I am like this,” she declares, spreading her arms wide to describe the breadth of her creativity.
At age 39, Barbotin asked her parents, art lovers themselves, for painting supplies at Christmas and taught herself to paint in her spare time. The business school graduate was working for GE in France in 2014, when she decided to leave her demanding job and pursue her love of painting. To that end, she enrolled in classes at the School of Fine Arts in Nantes. She was living in Nantes when, in 2017, her husband’s job brought the family to Greenville.
A self-proclaimed “emerging artist,” Nadia thrives on challenging herself. Case in point is her series of paintings entitled Quand le hasard fait bien les choses (“When chance makes things go well”). The title stems from an experience she had after completing one painting and daring herself to create a series of small works using only the paint that was left on her palette—with lovely results.
In order to achieve the quality of craftsmanship that she demands of her work, Barbotin insists on stretching her own canvases using a linen/cotton blend of fabric from France, and mixes her own colors from powdered pigments.
The mother of two teens is currently experimenting with a series of paintings on Plexiglas, which catch the light from every angle, changing the colors depending on the how the light shines through the surfaces. She describes these Plexiglas pieces as “paintings-objects” that can be manipulated in all directions.
Her work, which reflects the shimmering light of the Impressionists, the spontaneous emotional language of the Abstract Expressionists, and the energy of the Action painters, is nothing short of illuminating.
View Nadia’s work on Instagram at @nadia.barbotin.gallery. Photography of artwork by Eli Warren.