The Serpentine Sackler Gallery presents poet, painter and essayist Etel Adnan’s first solo exhibition in a UK public institution. Adnan, a living legend, was born in 1925 in Beirut and lives in Sausalito, Cal., and Paris. She studied literature at the Sorbonne, Paris, at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., and Berkeley University. Adnan’s artworks feature in numerous collections, including Centre Pompidou, Paris; British Museum, London; National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.
I had the chance to meet her when I was based in Kassel, working for the spectacular dOCUMENTA (13), curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev.
“Every art is a window into a world that only art can access. You can’t define these worlds. They are epiphanies, visions.” – Etel Adnan said about her practice.
Often working in series, her painting continued to move between recognisable and imagined forms, revealing her sensitivity to vivid colours and shapes extracted from the environments in which she found herself. Her writing, too, contains multiple references and responses to the politics and violence in the world around her. From her earliest poem in English, which addressed the Vietnam War, to her award-winning 1978 novel Sitt Marie-Rose, she explores the political and personal dimensions of violence and articulates her experience of exile from familiar landscapes and languages.
This exhibition encapsulates her immense talent and feature works on media such as paintings, drawings, poetry, film and tapestry. The exhibition runs until 11 September 2016.
Image: Copyrights Etel Adnan; Untitled, ca. 1995-2000; Oil on canvas 35 x 45,5 cm; Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg / Beirut.
Image: Copyrights Etel Adnan; Untitled, ca. 1995 – 2000; Oil on canvas 40 x 50 cm; Courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg / Beirut