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Etel Adnan

Etel Adnan

Etel Adnan was an American-Lebanese painter and writer whose expressive, poetic landscapes offer intimate visions of both American and Middle Eastern scenes. Her knowledge of philosophy of art emerges in her body of work where vibrant stretches of colour become concise but deeply humane visions of hope.

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Etel Adnan
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NEWS

Simon Fattal “metaphorS” at Secession, Vienna

Simon Fattal “metaphorS” at Secession, Vienna

Moussemagazine · 16 Jul, 2024 @ 01:32

Simone Fattal studied in France and began painting in Beirut in the early 1970s. She founded the Post-Apollo Press in California and for the next 30 yearsshe dedicated herself to publishing literature and poetry, including many books by her partner Etel Adnan.

Photo reportage from the exhibition 'Room for Many' by Thea Gvetadze & Diana Tamane at Tartu Art House

Photo reportage from the exhibition 'Room for Many' by Thea Gvetadze & Diana Tamane at Tartu Art House

Echo Gone Wrong · 29 Jun, 2024 @ 07:50

Through new works, Room for Many is a snapshot of their current selves, a self-portrait of sorts, while also connecting the artists' stories with narratives of resilience and survival experienced by other women.

Thea Gvetadze & Diana Tamane. Room for Many

Thea Gvetadze & Diana Tamane. Room for Many

27 Jun, 2024 @ 20:43

Photoreportage from the exhibition at Tartu Art Hall, which is on view until June 30

 

About the Artist

Etel Adnan was an American Lebanese painter and writer whose expressive, poetic landscapes offer intimate visions of both American and Middle Eastern scenes. Her knowledge of philosophy of art emerges in her body of work where vibrant stretches of colour become concise but deeply humane visions of hope.

Adnan was born in 1925 in Beirut into a multi-cultural and multi-lingual family. She studied philosophy of art in France and went on to complete her post-graduate studies in the United States where she taught philosophy of art in 1952. Adnan also worked as a poet, journalist and novelist, publishing her influential novel ‘Sitt Marie-Rose’, a classic of war literature, in 1977.

It was in the 1960s that Adnan, settling in Sausalito, California, began to paint. Her need to explore art forms other than writing was prompted not only by her interest in visual language but also by her decision to stop writing in French, a way of politically distancing herself from the concurrent Algerian War.

Mimicking the nomadic nature of her world, Adnan’s art moved fluidly between disciplines and engaged with diverse elements of life. Her approach was deeply rooted in contemporary philosophy, and especially in the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who popularised phenomenology as an aesthetic approach. For Adnan, sight was not merely a visual phenomenon, but a complex experience involving all senses.

Another notable site of inspiration was the exchanges between Arab and American cultures. In the 1960s Adnan began assimilating Arabic calligraphy into her art, following the lead of ‘hurufiyya’, a group of traditional Islamic calligraphists. Such rejection of established Western aesthetics and the quest for original forms of expression reflected Adnan’s commitment to Eastern culture, media and techniques. Across these practices, she held on to the social function of art she had observed in the busy Beirut souks selling their exquisite Islamic rugs. Working with textiles and prints was a route to rekindling this lively exchange between trade, community and art.

Adnan’s subjects often return to the outside world of nature, season and the passage of time. Her 1970 drawings ‘Playground’ and ‘Summer’, recreated as Giclée prints and tapestries in 2016, emerge as evocative chromatic experiences. Always looking for different experiences of the natural world, Adnan created an important body of work on Lebanese landscapes. ‘Abstract Landscape’ (2015) is made from wide expanses of warm, elemental colours. She also produced works known as accordion-fold books or ‘leporellos’. These artworks, on which Adnan transcribed poems and sketched landscapes, combine her parallel practices of painting and writing. Like foldable screens, they can be extended into space, becoming autonomous art objects.

Adnan died in 2021 but the simplicity of her work remains a beguiling testament to her quest for an intimate pictorial language. In between her relinquishment to lyricism and rigorous social engagement, Adnan’s art is ultimately dedicated to life and transformation.

Etel Adnan
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