ETEL ADNAN, WRITING MOUNTAINS . Retrospective, Museum der Moderne Salzburg.
The Museum der Moderne Salzburg, as the first institution in Austria, presents the versatile work of writer, poet, artist, and cultural journalist Etel Adnan, born 1925 in Beirut (Lebanon). Adnan’s most important publications include Sitt Marie-Rose (1977), The Arab Apocalypse (1980), and Journey to Mount Tamalpais (1986). In 1959, Etel Adnan, then already active as a writer, begins to paint and draw as well; she subsequently expands her creative range by adding accordion-fold artist’s books, tapestries, and Super 8 mm films to her repertoire.
The exhibition traces Adnan’s artistic development based on a selection of roughly two hundred works and work groups. Adnan’s early color field paintings reminiscent of architecture are often compared with the work of Nicolas de Staël while there are also stylistic echoes of works by Paul Cézanne, Paul Klee, and Pablo Picasso. Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco, is an important source of inspiration for Adnan. This mountain inspires her investigations of richly contrasting colors in variations and the limits of abstraction. Adnan’s images thus function as soulscapes within which her poetic language finds visual correspondence. Through their transient mode of operation, Adnan’s works reflect the immediacy of her aesthetic expression. They are studies of colors and forms, and sketches of landscapes, especially of Mount Tamalpais. Thousands of works thus have been created over the years, showing the mountain in different colors, light situations and times of year and day.
Accordion-fold artist’s books have held a special position within her work since 1964. The artist combines handwritten poems by contemporary Arabic poets with images on Japanese paper folded into book form, like traditional emakimonos. Adnan has also designed carpets and tapestries since the 1950s. She attaches special importance to making the dynamics of the colors visible, as a reference to Wassily Kandinsky. Roughly seventy shorts that she shot on Super 8mm film in the 1980s focus on capturing her own personal perception. She focuses here on the captured light, colors, and movement rather than the subject. Adnan offers a versatile transcendence of linguistic, cultural, and geographic borders with her works. The pieces represent facets of her identity, which in the artist’s view is a constantly changing process.
Curator: Tina Teufel, Museum der Moderne Salzburg
Painter and poet, born in 1925, Etel Adnan is a Lebanese/American. She studied philosophy in Paris, Berkely and Harvard. She writes poetry, essays, stories and plays. She’s a painter, and makes remarkable artist’s books. Her first exhibition happened in California in 1960, while she was teaching philosophy. She exhibited in the United States, England, France, Germany, and the Arab World. Many private and public collections have acquired her works. Public Collections: Washington (National Museum for Women in the Arts, World Bank Collection), Los Angeles and New York (Contemporary Crafts Museum), Paris (Institut du Monde Arabe), London (British Museum), Tunis (Musée d’art contemporain), Beirut (Musée Nicolas Sursock), Amman (National Royal Gallery), Doha (Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art). After spending the major part of her life in California, she resides now in Paris.
Emmanuel Daydé (quotation from Art Absolument).
Etel Adnan’s painting, just like her poetry, come from the mountain to then dive into the sea. Being a concrete experience of both the past and the present simultaneously, her ‘alchemical laboratory’ comes from far, from very far. From the undefeated sun and from the sea that always starts again. From Lebanon, from Greece, from Paris and from America’s West coast. From the Mediterranean and from the Pacific. From the epicurean atomism, from Mahmoud Darwish’s sad lyricism and from Noam Chomsky’s naturalistic linguistics. From the icon, from the Persian miniature, from the Arabic calligraphy, from the carpet with geometric patterns, from the lyrical Abstraction, from Action-painting, from minimalist art and from the experimental cinema. Having travelled at the core of the core of all these countries, Etel Adnan remains an Arab nomadic globe-trotter who sings the intense love of our tragic world with an infinite number of ghazals. According to her friends, ‘people are satisfied if one miracle occurs in their lives, but Etel needs miracles to happen twice a day’. Celebrating the world’s beauty, her hedonistic paintings follow in their own way Gauguin’s prophetic ‘Talisman’, that Sérusier then passed on to the Nabis painters, the ‘prophets’.