Etel Adnan - It is very difficult not to be who you are


I think in art like in your everyday life is very difficult not to be who you are. [Etel Adnan]

Colorist are epic poet. [Charles Baudelaire]

The first time I saw Etel Adnan's work was in 2012 in Kassel, at Documenta. I didn't know she was octagenarian, I didn't know she's a poet, I didn't know her voice as an intellectual, I didn't know she's lebanese, half turkish half greek, I didn't know she lived in California. I simply didn't know her but that room was a disclosure. I loved the disruptive tidiness of abstract almost aerial landscapes. It was mind blowing and touching and I didn't expect that. When I met her a couple of weeks ago I was really in a state, I had the chance to talk with her in San Gimignano, where she came by train, all troughout Europe, from Paris to Marsiglia, to Genova and to Tuscany eventually because she can't fly but her solo show was opening at the Galleria Continua.

To do the leporellos for me is cinematic. [Etel Adnan]

I discovered that writing is drawing, I like manuscripts in languages I don't know because they are drawings. I was happy the day I discovered that the act of writing is an act of drawing. [Etel Adnan]

We started talking about the leporello - or japanes folding notebook -, a format she's been using since the 60s, the perfect space of negotiation between writing and drawing, where no hesitation is permitted, where time is expanded. The four leporellos she drew in San Gimignano are not of the classical size of a postcard but the pages are much longer that wide as if they were meant to fit the verticality of the place. As if the spirit of San Gimignamo was more in the shape, in the forms, in geometry, than into colors, that are the mean she usually uses to catch the force of nature, to portray the spirit of the Californian landscape, the land, the mountain and the sea she loves, the force she likes to be close to, where she became an American poet.

We ended up talking about education, her mother and Aristotele; about that nun who pulled her out of the art class, when she was a child, telling her: "art and you are two different things". 

The exhibition is open at the Galleria Continua until November 9th 2013.

Etel Adnan, poetess, novelist, essayist and visual artist. She was born in Beirut in 1925 to a Muslim Syrian father and a Christian Greek mother. Beirut and Damascus were the landscapes of her childhood, France and the United States the countries where she studied and works. Adnan is regarded as one of the most important representatives of the “Arab diaspora”, and a pioneer of the process of female emancipation. Her interest in visual art developed during the years of the Algerian war of independence, when writing in French had political implications which the artist, out of solidarity with the rebels, refused to embrace. Her first paintings date to 1958, at a time when Adnan had recently moved to the San Francisco and was teaching philosophy at the Californian University. 

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