Etel Adnan, an acclaimed poet, writer and painter, was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon. From her early poems which addressed the Vietnam War, to her award-winning 1978 novel Sitt Marie-Rose, set during the Lebanese Civil War, Adnan explores the political and personal dimensions of violence and exile from familiar landscapes and languages. Adnan started painting in the early 1960s, a move that was prompted, in part, by her decision to stop writing in French following the Algerian War.
However it was not until Adnan’s inclusion in Documenta 13 in Germany in 2012 that she came to prominence as a visual artist. Her paintings, and more recently her prints, are suggestive of landscapes and include forms that reference specific places. Painted and etched from memory, Adnan depicts mountains, sunsets, oceans and vast stretches of scenery rendered with large bands of pure colour and recurring abstract motifs.
A landscape distilled into large strips of warm desert colours in En route vers le desert, 2018, is reminiscent of the artist’s native Lebanon, whilst vibrant skies and brightly coloured fields in En chemin vers l'arc-en-ciel, 2020, 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 in 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 in their own right they can sometimes change our lives, they can sometimes become a spiritual experience.”
Her work is held in collections all over the world including Centre Pompidou, Paris; Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris; British Museum, London; Mathaf, Doha; Royal Jordanian Museum; Tunis Modern Art Museum; Sursock Museum, Beirut; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; National Museum for Women in the Arts, Washington D.C.
Etel Adnan lives and works in Paris, France.