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Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible Ocula Report Havana Biennial 2019: Constructing the Possible 17 Apr 2019 : Federica Bueti for Ocula

I first visited Havana in November 2016, a few days after Fidel Castro died, and just under a year before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba in September 2017. Since then, much has changed, including the hand-painted signs that punctuate the journey from the airport to the city centre, which today do not celebrate the revolution so much as the 'Unidad y...

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Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui Ocula Conversation Andrew Stahl and Guo Xiaohui

The exhibition Beyond Boundaries at Somerset House in London (12 March–2 April 2019) marked the historic contributions of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) and the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, on the occasion of their 100th and 150th anniversaries, respectively. Spread across several rooms of Somerset House's...

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The National 2019: New Australian Art Ocula Report The National 2019: New Australian Art 13 Apr 2019 : Elyse Goldfinch for Ocula

The National 2019: New Australian Art features work by 70 contemporary Australia-based artists split across three venues: the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) (29 March–21 July 2019), as curated by Isobel Parker Philip, curator of photographs at AGNSW; Daniel Mudie Cunningham,...

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Etel Adnan

b. 1925, Lebanon

Etel Adnan is living proof that age is simply a number, as the Beirut-born American artist and poet is still prolific, producing fiercely political and personal poetry, novels and paintings at the age of 91. A woman who can speak five languages and who has effortlessly moved between the disciplines of writing and painting, Adnan draws on her experience of a world that has drastically changed several times over her life, as well as on her somewhat nomadic existence, moving from Lebanon to France and eventually to California, allowing for a complex, engaging merging and traversal of cultures.

Produced since the early 1960’s, Adnan’s paintings showcase a different angle of her understanding of the world around her. Her brightly coloured landscapes are shaped loosely and emotionally with a palette knife on intimate canvases, creating vibrant fields of colour that emanate both an intense energy and a sense of tranquillity. While her prose is visceral, highly politicised and reflective of the chaotic, what Adnan’s paintings reveal is her spiritual engagement with her environment, realising a much more sensory experience and honest, inherently personal appreciation for the world. As she stated in a 2012 article in The Paris Review, her works are purposefully sparse and portray a calming disposition. They are a reflection of '…the happiness to just be'.

However, perhaps it is this relationship between her writing and her art that gives the paintings their additional depth. By knowing of the confronting, brutal nature of her writing, one imbues Adnan’s serene paintings with these stark realities. But they are not simply peaceful pictures of escapism; rather they highlight how Adnan sees beauty and love in a world full of turmoil.

This theme of landscape is an important marker in Adnan’s work, as it is intrinsically linked to her travels and homes in different parts of the world. The earth, sea, light and shadows of Beirut, France, and her current home in Sausalito, California are refined and distilled down. Indeed, Mount Tamalpais, visible from her California home, became a geographical focal point, much like Cezanne’s relationship with Mont Sainte-Victorie. The impasto application of oil paints and the geometric build of the landscape represent a personal journey, laden with stories, emotions, and experiences.

Although Etel Adnan has had a distinguished and well-travelled career, her art has only come to prominence in her later years. Moving to America in the 1950s, she studied at the University of California and at Harvard and subsequently taught philosophy at the Dominican University of California. Around 1959, she began painting and drawing, partly inspired by her decision to cease writing her prose in French in protest to the treatment of local peoples of colonial areas of North Africa by France.

Since 1961, she has exhibited worldwide, particularly her native Lebanon and in America and France, with recent solo exhibitions at the Galerie Sfeir-Semler in Beirut, Lebanon, 2010; Callicoon Fine Arts, New York, 2012 and 2014; The Wattis Institute, San Francisco, California, 2013; White Cube, London, England, 2014; Galerie Lelong, New York, 2015; and most recently, at the Serpentine Galleries in London, England, 2016. She has also participated in a number of group exhibitions, including dOCUMENTA (13) in Kassel, Germany in 2012; the Whitney Biennial in New York, 2014; and the Sharjah Biennial 12, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, 2014.

Etel Adnan lives and works in Paris, France and Sausalito, California, U.S.A.

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Featured Artworks

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Le Poids du Monde IV by Etel Adnan contemporary artwork Etel AdnanLe Poids du Monde IV, 2016 Etching
48 x 38 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris
Jardins 17 by Etel Adnan contemporary artwork Etel AdnanJardins 17, 2018 Oil on canvas
30 x 30 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris
Le poids de la lune 10 by Etel Adnan contemporary artwork Etel AdnanLe poids de la lune 10, 2017 Oil on canvas
33 x 24 cm
Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris
Un moment de lumière by Etel Adnan contemporary artwork Etel AdnanUn moment de lumière, 2018 Etching
48 x 38 cm
Alan Cristea Gallery
Soleil lointain by Etel Adnan contemporary artwork Etel AdnanSoleil lointain, 2018 Etching
56.8 x 45 cm
Alan Cristea Gallery
Poids du monde (Le) V by Etel Adnan contemporary artwork Etel AdnanPoids du monde (Le) V, 2018 Etching
48 x 38 cm
Alan Cristea Gallery
Poids du monde (Le) IV by Etel Adnan contemporary artwork Etel AdnanPoids du monde (Le) IV, 2018 Etching
48 x 38 cm
Alan Cristea Gallery
Poids du monde (Le) III by Etel Adnan contemporary artwork Etel AdnanPoids du monde (Le) III, 2018 Etching
48 x 38 cm
Alan Cristea Gallery

Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Etel Adnan, Elsewhere at Alan Cristea Gallery, London
Closed
28 February–30 March 2019 Etel Adnan Elsewhere Alan Cristea Gallery, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Etel Adnan, Parler aux fleurs at Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris, Paris
Closed
22 November 2018–19 January 2019 Etel Adnan Parler aux fleurs Galerie Lelong & Co. Paris, 13 Rue de Téhéran
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Of the Self and of the Other at Galerie Lelong & Co. New York, New York
Closed
28 June–3 August 2018 Group Exhibition Of the Self and of the Other Galerie Lelong & Co. New York

Represented By

In Related Press

View All (16)
Etel Adnan, the Eternal Voyager, Captured in a New Biography Related Press Etel Adnan, the Eternal Voyager, Captured in a New Biography Hyperallergic : 6 March 2019

As we rewrite art history to recognize the contribution and impact of women from around the world, pointed attention has been dedicated to several bodies of work that reveal, beyond their formal singularity, radical modes of expression. One such artist is Etel Adnan, the 94-year-old Lebanese multimedia artist, writer, poet, and intellectual, whose...

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From Poetry to Chemistry to ‘a Shared Museum,’ Performances at FIAC Related Press From Poetry to Chemistry to ‘a Shared Museum,’ Performances at FIAC The New York Times : 17 October 2018

Not all of the work at FIAC, the Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain (International Contemporary Art Fair), is in frames or on pedestals. Parades for FIAC, a performance festival now in its third year (although performances have been part of the fair for a decade now), is staging 17 productions, with a special emphasis this time on dance and...

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'The colours I use are the colours of California' - an interview with Etel Adnan Related Press 'The colours I use are the colours of California' - an interview with Etel Adnan Apollo Magazine : 16 June 2018

There’s something curiously familiar about visiting Etel Adnan’s apartment in Paris. Not that I’ve ever been there before. But in recent years it has become a sort of cult destination for art-world figures, mentioned and mythologised by the various curators and critics who go to meet her, as well as depicted in film-portraits of the artist. Her...

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Surface Work review – women abstract artists dazzle in historic show Related Press Surface Work review – women abstract artists dazzle in historic show The Guardian : 15 April 2018

There are certain shows that change one's sense of art. Surface Work is one of them. Spread across two sites, it is nothing less than an anthology of abstract painting spanning an entire century, from early constructivism to post-digital sampling, in which every work holds its own and every work is by a woman. This is a rare and historic event.It...

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