Etel Adnan: Elsewhere features new works by Etel Adnan in the artist's first solo exhibition of prints in a London gallery. Acclaimed throughout her life for her writing, particularly her poetry, it was not until her inclusion in Documenta 13 in Germany in 2012 that she came to prominence as a visual artist. She has now been celebrated in major solo exhibitions all over the world, including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA (2018); Zentrum Paul Klee, Lucerne, Switzerland (2018); Serpentine Galleries, London (2016); and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2015).
More recently, Adnan has incorporated printmaking into her practice, and our exhibition features a selection of prints created over the past year and a half. The works depict landscapes of personal importance, rendered with large bands of pure colour and through recurring abstract motifs.
Adnan was born in 1925 in French-speaking Beirut to a Syrian father and a Greek mother. Her international roots and her studies in philosophy in Paris and the USA led her to a fascination with language. It was not until the artist was 36 that she turned to painting as a means of artistic expression, a move that was prompted, in part, by her decision to stop writing in French following the Algerian War in the early 1960s. Adnan's work explores both the political and personal dimensions of her exile from familiar landscapes and languages.
For this new body of etchings, Adnan depicts mountains, skylines, sunsets, oceans, and vast stretches of land from memory. A landscape distilled into large strips of yellow and orange in En vers le desert (2017) is reminiscent of her native Lebanon, whilst warm skies and brightly coloured fields in Paysage du Feu (2017) recall the scenery of Mount Tamalpais in California, a landscape Adnan viewed from her window during her time teaching at the Dominican College of San Rafael from the 1950s to the 1970s.
Adnan comments, "I am particularly sensitive to places, to wherever I am. Places act on us like the quality of the water affects fish. Places are a part of nature, of the bigger picture. We are interrelated. When we contemplate them on their own right they can sometimes change our lives, they can sometimes become spiritual experiences."
Having found expression in poetry, scholarship, painting and now printmaking, her work is a testament to a deep curiosity and engagement with the world, be that political, personal or physical.
Etel Adnan: Elsewhere will be exhibited in the Print Project Space which presents an ongoing programme of public displays featuring works by the gallery's roster of international artists.