Two of the most innovative artists of the past fifty years, Adnan and Hodgkin’s work hovered between abstraction and representation, capturing distilled memories of places or people, expressed through layers and strokes of intense colour.
Over 40 prints made over the past twenty years, which come from the estates of Adnan and Hodgkin, will include a selection of some of the final works ever made by the artists.
Etel Adnan worked for most of her life as a writer and poet, shifting her focus to painting in the 1970s, prompted in part by her decision to stop writing in French following the Algerian War. Choosing to express herself in colour and line, she started to make abstracted works, that were suggestive of landscapes and incorporated vibrant pastel palettes. When Adnan began to receive critical acclaim as a visual artist in her late 80s, she also began to find expression in printmaking. The exhibition presents etchings made in the final five years of her life.
Adnan’s art is informed by the different languages and cultures she lived with and encountered. She was born in Beirut, Lebanon, before moving to Paris and then to California to study and teach. In the 1970s she lived near Mount Tamalpais in California. There the view of the mountains out of her window became a repeated source of inspiration. Abstract renderings of the mountain continued to find their way into her work years later; mountains looming over the landscape are depicted in Montagnes (2020), and the changing light of a similar scene is captured in Dans le mystère de la nature (2018).
Although she settled in Paris, regular travels throughout Adnan’s life to Jordan, Morocco, Syria, Tunisa and back to Lebanon, are all remembered in her works, from a hazy desert scene in En route vers le desert (2018), to depictions of a blazing sun fading into the horizon in Soleil lointain (2017), and Late Afternoon (2020). No two depictions of these memorised landscapes are the same; Adnan’s etchings capture the changing seasons, light and weather of these treasured places.
Her final etchings including Memories, 2021, and Le soleil a vécu (2020-21), depict deceptively simple yet vast stretches of land and sky, distilled into only a few strips of colour bands. Adnan’s etchings bear testament to her constant deep curiosity and engagement with the world throughout her life.
About Etel Adnan
Etel Adnan (1925 - 2021), poet, writer and painter, was born in Beirut, Lebanon. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, Paris, and in January 1955 went to the United States to pursue post-graduate studies in philosophy at University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard. Through her poetry, piantings and etchings, Adnan explored the political and personal dimensions of violence and exile from familiar landscapes and languages. In 2022 the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, presented the first retrospective exhibition of Adnan alongside works by Vincent van Gogh. Her most recent solo exhibitions were at the Pera Museum, Istanbul and the Guggenheim, New York in 2021.
Image: Etel Adnan at her home, 2014. Courtesy Estate of Etel Adnan and Galerie Lelong & Co.
Memory and intimacy were central to the art of renowned painter and printmaker Howard Hodgkin. Prints by the artist spanning the late 1990s to his final months, trace the development of his mark making which was characterised by a vibrant and evocative colour palette.
Hodgkin continually explored the possibilities of printmaking throughout his career. Drawing on his personal experiences, he worked across a number of techniques, and experimented with scale, to create them anew.
Earlier graphic works such as Rain (2000-02), where a large, printed splatter suggests a raindrop caught on a windowpane or a windswept landscape, show Hodgkin viewing nature from behind the safety of a window which appears in the form of a printed frame in his compositions. Over a decade later Hodgkin steps outside, directly into nature. In Autumn, Grass and Earth (2014), the printed frame is gone, as Hodgkin invites a more intimate immersion in the environment.
The last series of prints that Hodgkin made, entitled After All, was the summation of the visual language that Hodgkin called “representational pictures of emotional situations”. His printed and hand-coloured gestures, now entirely painterly, combined with bright and bold colours, give the works synaesthetic qualities, stirring the viewer’s senses. Although Hodgkin resisted interpretation, his choice of evocative titles such as Dark Rainbow, Foreign Garden, Beach, and Fresh Fruit Crumble (2015-2016), go further in inviting contemplation of our own encounters and memories.
About Howard Hodgkin
Howard Hodgkin (1932 - 2017) was one of Britain's most important painters and printmakers. Born in London, he studied at the Camberwell School of Art between 1949 - 50, followed by the Bath Academy of Art between 1950 – 1954.
Hodgkin's paintings and prints have been the subject of major exhibitions all over the world. His first retrospective was curated by Nicholas Serota at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, in 1976. In 1995 The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, presented a major retrospective which toured to Europe and in 2010 they presented a dedicated prints retrospective.
Image: Howard Hodgkin in his London studio, 2014. Photo: Marcella Leith.