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Marc François Auboire by Julian Schnabel

Today we look at Marc François Auboire by Julian Schnabel for Artwork in Focus. Join me Divvya Nirula as I explore and present my experience of the selected artwork.

Artwork in Focus

Title: Marc François Auboire
Artist : Julian Schnabel
Year : 1988
Medium : oil, plates and bondo on wood
Dimensions : 72 x 60 x 6 1/8in. (183 x 152.5 x 15.5cm.)
Location : Private Collection

Julian-Schnabel_Marc-François-Auboire-1988_Artwork-in-Focus_Divvya-Nirula
Marc Francois Auboire, 1988 by Julian Schnabel
Image courtesy : Christies

The Experience of the Artwork

Julian Schnabel’s Marc-François Auboire, is in the typical style of the artist. As you come upon this huge painting one is struck by Schanbel’s hallmark style of painting on broken plates. The broken plates, when one studies them up close are splintered, jagged and cracked with layers of paint. In fact the bright hues and colours – be it the reds, greens, black, purples, ochres and browns – all jump out at you. There is a textural quality – thick, intense and inviting to touch. Of course one does not touch it, even if one wants to – desperately.

There is one intriguing aspect of this artwork, that when one changes their perspective, the cracked scape of bright colour reposes comfortably and transforms from aggressive to almost serene. Now it greets us as a beautiful portrait with infinite subtleties that were hidden in the close-up. I agree with the critics when they say that – it is truly a monumental composition. Not just in size but the expression it presents, whilst simultaneously invoking within the viewer a sense of grandness. For me, the expression turns to a sensation whenever I look at this work, even in reproduction. And that sensation is one of floating. I invite you to look at it again. The red background with the white circles become swirls. Auboire – whose portrait this is, and I (in my imagination of course) are floating together – on water or air, perhaps even in and through space. It is a joy.

Who was Marc François Auboire


The gentleman, Marc-François Auboire, was a friend of Julian and a fellow artist Anh Duong. The image of the dark-haired man in his lilac jacket against a patterned red background is a thought provoking statement of what Auboire might be thinking about. This keeps in line with Schnabel’s preoccupation with inviting the audience to study and experience the work.

Schnabel’s style was a foray into the open and experimental styles of painting in the 1980s. The shattered platters were evocative of contemporary cultural crises, the fragmented aspect of postmodern works. Moreover, the plates carried within themselves a bit of history itself. Perhaps even suggesting to us the spaces and discoveries in ancient archaeological sites. Thereby signifying the impermanence of kingdoms, the impermanence of the self. We need not look further than Schnabel’s own words, as he says,

‘I was trying to tear the mosaic out of its own body to make a bridge to something just outside of my own body. All of this was happening before I even started to paint the painting. It was that radical moment an artist waits for. I wanted to make something that was exploding as much as I wanted to make something that was cohesive.’

– Julian Schnabel

Schnabel’s Auboire, demonstrated his central idea of something at once ‘exploding’ and ‘cohesive’, an oppositional movement that finds remarkable expression in the work. An artwork that is so vivid and dynamic to the viewer, invested with a sense of mobility depending on their vantage point of the viewer. Embodying certain key tenets of Expressionism in this Neo-Expressionist work.

Other Details

Schnabel’s inspiration to create his broken-plate artworks was rooted in a trip that he and his friend Ross Bleckner had taken to Europe. In his travels to Barcelona, in 1978 he witnessed the ground-breaking work of Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí’s signature style employed broken china in his mosaics.

According to Schnabel, talking about his medium – “(it)..had a certain kind of reflective quality and density of colour and light that I felt hadn’t really been used in painting, that was sort of off the ground and had a … pictorial possibility, besides the psychological one.”

Marc-François Auboire looks on from his frame through his broken china surface, with a great deal of composure. He too is an artist – a piece made up of several pieces. Does that make him broken or does that make him whole? He invites the audience to explore the land between that which is organised and that which is chaotic. Schnabel’s vision informing a whole new way of looking.


Want to read more of my views on artworks that hold my attention ? Visit the archive for Artwork in Focus.

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