Tag Archives: Hans Ulrich Obrist


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.


Chance does have a major role to play. Using a live person—myself especially—allows for chance… Because each picture in a roll of film can be completely different, that’s the element of chance that works for me. This is why whenever I’ve tried to do more still life-type shots—with mannequins and dolls—it’s so much harder as I have to decide what it is I’m looking for while I’m setting it up. — Cindy Sherman*

A new body of work by Sherman comprising ten photographs—”androgynous characters… dressed primarily in men’s designer clothing”—is on view at Metro Pictures through the rest of the week, in person or via its online viewing room.


Through October 31, by appointment.

Metro Pictures

519 West 24th Street, New York City.

*“A Conversation with Cindy Sherman by Hans Ulrich Obrist,” Paradis 6 (2012): 92.

Cindy Sherman, Metro Pictures, September 26, 2020–October 31, 2020, from top: Untitled #603, 2019, dye sublimation print; Untitled #610, 2019, dye sublimation print; Untitled #612, 2019, dye sublimation print; Untitled #615, 2019, dye sublimation print; Untitled #609, 2019, dye sublimation print; Untitled #611, 2019, dye sublimation print. Images © Cindy Sherman, courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures.


If I have a voice at all, I’m going to use it… to complain [laughter]. Because it’s the only way that you get anything done. — Luchita Hurtado*

The exhibition LUCHITA HURTADO—JUST DOWN THE STREET is now open in Zürich. The show brings together the artist’s drawings and paintings on paper from the 1960s.


Through July 31.

Hauser & Wirth

Limmatstrasse 270, Zürich.

*Hurtado and Hans Ulrich Obrist in conversation at LACMA, February 2020.

Luchita Hurtado, from top: Untitled, 1965, acrylic on paper; Just Down the Street, 1965, oil on paper; Portrait, 1965 / 1968, oil on paper; Luchita Hurtado—Just Down the Street, May 11, 2020–July 31, 2020, installation view; Untitled, circa 1957 / 1968, oil and conte on paper; Untitled, 1968, oil and graphite on paper. Artwork photographs by Jeff McLane. Images courtesy and © 2020 the artist and Hauser & Wirth.


This week, Pace Gallery’s Art Matters program features a live Instagram conversation between Torkwase Dyson and Hans Ulrich Obrist.


Wednesday, April 1.

2pm on the West Coast, 5 pm East Coast.

From top: Torkwase Dyson, photograph by Gabe Souza; Dyson, Plantationocene (Black Water 1919), 2019, acrylic, graphite, string, wood, ink on canvas. Images courtesy and © the artist, the photographers, and Pace Gallery. Hans Ulrich Obrist, photograph by Brigitte Lacombe, courtesy and © the photographer and subject.