Etel Adnan

Image – Untitled 1969 – oil on canvas – Etel Adnan

I am now studying the paintings and writings of Etel Adnan. She was born in Beirut 96 years ago, spent a lot of time in California and now lives in Paris.  I saw her exhibition, The Weight of the World at London’s Serpentine gallery in 2016 and was encouraged by it. En-cour-age means blood to the heart.  A contemporary expression might be ‘blown away’ , but I was sucked in.  I’m revisiting her now.  In one of the essays prefacing the catalogue to the show, Simone Fattal writes       
  ‘Adnan started painting in California, while she was teaching Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art at Dominican college…She started teaching there in 1958.  One day, on her way to class Adnan met the art teacher Ann O’Hanlon. Ann asked her ‘How can you teach philosophy of art and not paint yourself?’ Adnan heard herself answer, ‘My mother said I was clumsy,’ and Ann said ‘And you believed her? ‘ This simple question and answer freed her hands and soon, at Ann’s invitation, she started using a table by a window in the art department overlooking a little creek and fig trees. She painted on sample pieces of canvas, leftovers…’
Andan embodied her philosophy and offered the world hundreds of paintings of depth and-extraordinary colour,  many of them starting with a small red square around which she built the world of the painting.  I write about painting all the time – fiction – reviews. so now I give notice that I’ll do it, like I used to when I was the student of Stanislaw Frenkiel in 1968 – but that’s another story.   There is a rooted meta-physicality in Adnan’s art . This sounds like a contradiction. It is – and that’s why I love it.   Here she is…
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