Tag Archives: etel adnan


Hans Ulrich Obrist: So Simone, to start at the beginning, I wanted to ask you how it all started? How did you come to art? How did art come to you? Was it a sudden epiphany or was it a more gradual awakening?

Simone Fattal: I remember very well, it was a kind of epiphany. I had two painter friends in Lebanon that I used to visit a lot in the afternoon for tea, and one day I took a paint box lying around and a brush and I made four watercolors. Before that, one or two years prior to that day, I had made a series of paintings and drawings but I had not taken them seriously. That day I recognized them as a work of art. I remember one was a rendering of Chéri. I was reading Chéri, by Colette, this lovely novella in which the young man wears a string of pearls that belonged to his mistress, so I did this portrait of a young man with a string of pearls. The pearls were pale blue. I can’t remember the subject of the other three watercolors but I remember having considered them as important, as constituting a beginning. Later one of these two painter friends made me a watercolor box. The box was made from light colored wood. He put each color in a round porcelain container and across it wrote the name in his beautiful handwriting. He gave it to me as a gift, for my birthday, and so I started with watercolor.

HUO: How old were you then?

Simone: I was already 25, 26. It was after I’d graduated from studying philosophy. So it was not about starting as a young girl.

HUO: Graduating in philosophy—what did you specialize in? Who were the philosophers, for instance Kant and Wittgenstein? Etel Adnan said Nietzsche and Schhopenhauer were more important for her but what about you? That is interesting, that it is the backdrop for these watercolor activities, this philosophy study.

Simone: That is true, I’d chosen to study Logic so there was already Wittgenstein. Before I had gone to Paris to study philosophy, I had spent a year in London. My parents wanted me to study English—I was very young—and Wittgenstein was very big in London at the time. I would hear his name constantly! I also studied aesthetics with Revault d’Allonnes. Etel had read aesthetics with his predecessor, Etienne Souriau. Souriau had started the aesthetics studies in France and I studied with his pupils. I was very much interested in reading Descartes and Kant. We also read a lot of Jean-Paul Sartre. Bachelard was one of the main thinkers I was reading; he was the guy who studied the phenomenology of texts, and yes, Merleau-Ponty was also very important in those years. But I must say for me the most important reading, then and until today, remains Plato. I had a version of Zarathustra  that I still have in my library and it was so hard to read, for I think it is the worst translation ever.

HUO: Then you made these first watercolors and in them are the trees. Can you talk a little bit about the role of trees in the work?

Simone: As soon as I started painting, I rented an apartment in Beirut, with the intention of making it my studio, and I lived in it. I had great difficulty designing it as a studio. People were not used to anyone living alone. I was one of the first people living alone in Beirut – even men didn’t live alone! When I saw his little roof as they called them, a two-room apartment on the last floor of a building, I took one look, and knew I could work there. It was hard to make my decorator friend understand what I wanted, i.e. a studio to work in and not an apartment to live in gracefully. In any case, I finally got what I wanted, a great place to work in. He built me a long running wooden shelf with a drawer, running the whole length of the walls. And so I started. Before oils I did a lot of pastels, and those soft pastels were all of trees, it was the only recurring theme. I did a huge number of trees on paper that were big, 180 x 110 cm. All of these pastels were really great, however are lost, they disappeared during the war. It’s one of my very big sorrows. I have a few of them smaller, half the size, but the big ones are gone.

HUO: Who would be the heroes or heroines at that time for you? We spoke in the past about Paul Klee, in terms of watercolors, but who were the artists who inspired you?

Simone: In relation to my work, in the trees and the pastels of that time, I didn’t have any one person in mind. I can tell you when I started painting, I started my series of paintings as you know them—white and pink—in 1973 through to 1980; seven years I was working in those whites and pinks! I went to New York once and saw a small show of Agnes Martin’s. I know my work has nothing to do with hers but when I saw it, I knew I was on the right track. In Lebanon we didn’t have any examples of contemporary art, there were no museums, hardly any galleries. There was only Gallery One, where Etel and I made our first show, first book in 1973, so there were very little references one could relate to. When I first left school, I spent one year in London and that’s where I discovered painting.

HUO: Looking at the watercolors in your studio, there are some that are more abstract, that have the forms of crystals.

Simone: Before we go to the abstract, the watercolors that you have seen in the studio are all about fruit and flowers. It’s a whole series of gardens.

HUO: When did the fruit and gardens start? You often draw gardens and houses and in watercolor render them. Then there is a more microscopic view, you go into the fruit, you go into the garden, as if zooming in.

Simone: Zoom in, yes, sometimes on the trunk of the tree, sometimes on the fruit itself, you’re absolutely right.

HUO: How did that happen? How did the zoom moment occur?

Simone: Well, I think it came with the desire to go deeper into one’s subject. It is a natural movement. I wanted to know how an orange was made. I didn’t want to make an orange but I wanted to make how the orange appears and how the orange is formed, so it’s actually like phenomenology, to understand what it is about. In painting, it is the natural movement to go further into the investigation.

HUO: There are also the more abstract watercolors.

Simone: They are, like elements of atoms. It’s like zooming further inside something.

SIMONE FATTAL—WORK ON PAPER is on view in Zürich for one more week. See link below for details.


Through March 13.

Karma International

Weststrasse 75, Zürich.

Conversation between Simone Fattal and Hans Ulrich Obrist courtesy and © Karma International.

Simone Fattal, Works on Paper, Karma International, Zürich, February 6, 2021–March 13, 2021, from top: Quince and Apricots, 2014; By the Sea, 2014; Fragments II, 2015; Works on Paper installation views (3); Composition, 2015; Sorrow 2, 2014; Suite en jaune No. 1, 2016. Images © Simone Fattal, courtesy of the artist and Karma International.


This weekend, Engadin Art Talks presents LONGUE DURÉE, a 12-hour stream gathering the ideas, thoughts, projects, and performances of nearly fifty artists, architects, designers, writers, scientists, and curators.

Participants include Etel AdnanZiba ArdalanMichel AuderAlexandra BachzetsisTosh BascoDaniel BaumannCristina BechtlerElisabeth BronfenGion CaminadaGabriel ChaileJulian CharrièreBice CurigerChris DerconKatharina De VaivreManthia DiawaraSimone FattalPeter FischliChristina ForrerNorman FosterDario GamboniTrajal HarrellFritz HauserRaphael HeftiEmma HodcroftClaire HoffmannLuzius KellerJürg KienbergerRagnar KjartanssonAlexander KlugeRoman KrznaricGrażyna KulczykIsabel LewisBen Moore, Hans Ulrich ObristMadlaina PeerGriselda PollockKate RaworthMarkus ReymannKenny SchachterMerlin SheldrakeAdam SzymczykWu TsangLeo TuorPhilip UrsprungRico ValärNot Vital, and Stefan Zweifel.

See link below for program and streaming details.


Engadin Art Talks

Now streaming.

From top: Bice Curiger and Andy Warhol in 1976 at Galerie Bruno Bishofberger, Zürich, courtesy and © the gallery; Trajal Harrell (right) and Thibault Lac in Harrell’s Antigone (Jr.), photography credit David Berge and Wilfried Thierry, image © Trajal Harrell, courtesy of the artist; Etel Adnan in 2016, photograph by Fabrice Gibert, image © Etel Adnan, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Lelong; Ragnar Kjartansson (center) in his video World Light (2014), image © Ragnar Kjartansson, courtesy of the artist, Luhring Augustine, New York, and i8 Gallery, ReykjavÍk; Wu Tsang in New York, December 2018, photograph by Maciek Jasik, image courtesy and © the artist and the photographer.


Yes. The shifting, after the return of the tide, and my own. A question rushes out of the stillness, and then advances an inch at a time: has this day ever been before, or has it risen from the shallows, from a line, a sound?

When we name things simply, with words preceding their meaning, a cosmic narration takes place. Does the discovery of origins remove the dust? The horizon’s shimmering slows down all other perceptions. It reminds me of a childhood of emptiness which seems to have taken me near the beginnings of space and time… Etel Adnan*

ETEL ADNAN—SEASONS brings together new wool tapestries, leporellos, and paintings by the artist. These visual poems by the renowned colorist are on view in Manhattan in conjunction with the publication of Adnan’s new book Shifting the Silence.

See link below for details.


Through December 23.

Galerie Lelong & Co

528 West 26th Street, New York City.

See Lynne Tillman on Etel Adnan.

*Etel Adnan, Shifting the Silence (Brooklyn: Nightboat Books, 2020). Text © Etel Adnan, courtesy of the author and the publisher.

Etel Adnan, Seasons, Galerie Lelong & Co., October 29, 2020–December 23, 2020, from top: Liberté, 2017–18, wool tapestry; Terre de Feu, 2018, wool carpet; Planète 16, 2020, oil on canvas; Planète 17, 2020, oil on canvas; L’Olivier, 2019, wool tapestry; Danse Nocturne, 2019, wool tapestry; Planète 12, 2020, oil on canvas; Planète 8, 2019, oil on canvas; Au matin, 2017, wool tapestry. Images © Etel Adnan, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Lelong & Co.


I had started doing watercolors, but casually, with friends. My mother was away at the time, so I settled myself in the dining room with oils. When she came back she said, “Hey, you’re ruining my carpets!” So, I rented a studio of my own and moved there. I lived alone, which nobody did at the time. Not men, not anyone… On the roof, there was a small apartment with two rooms and a living room. I had a big mirror and a bar for dancing… There was a big wall I could paint on, too. I always painted standing up. I lived there until 1974, then I moved again, also to a top-floor studio, this time with a perfect view of Mount Sannine…

The first paintings were like self-discovery, like being born. They were very colorful, very lush, probably because I would go to the forests of the Chouf District for inspiration. But, little by little, my attachment to color evolved into a fascination with white. I remember the painter Paul Guiragossian came to see me and said, “Of course you paint in white, all you see is light here on the 11th floor.”…

Fadi Barrage was one of my closest friends. He was a painter. He later moved to Athens, where he died in 1988. In addition to Guiragossian, there was Huguette Caland and, of course, Etel Adnan. I met Etel at the end of 1972, when she came to Beirut to be the culture editor of the Lebanese newspaper, Al Safa. — Simone Fattal

KW Institute for Contemporary Art presents AUTOPORTRAIT, a documentary work by Simone Fattal shot in the early 1970s and edited in 2012.


Written, produced, and directed by Simone Fattal.

Cinematography by Pierre-Henri Magnin.

Edited by Eugénie Paultre.

46 minutes. In French, with English subtitles.

Simone Fattal, Autoportrait (1972 / 2012). Images courtesy and © the artist.


ORACULAR TRANSMISSIONS—a new volume collecting three email collaborations between Etel Adnan and Lynn Marie Kirby—is out now from X Artists’ Books.

The book also includes poems by Denise Newman and an introduction by curator Jordan Stein presenting their works and performances.

From top: Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2013, courtesy Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg and Beirut; Etel Adnan and Lynn Marie Kirby, Oracular Transmissions (2020), X Artists’ Books; Lynn Marie Kirby, Room Tone; Adnan and Simone Fattal in 2012 at the Post-Apollo Press table at the Marché de la Poésie à Paris, Place Saint Sulpice. Images courtesy and © the artists and the publisher.