Etel Adnan, 'Untitled', 2015, oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm. Collection Jean Frémon. © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Paris/New York

Colour as Language, a retrospective of work by the artist Etel Adnan (1925-2021) is on view at Van Gogh Museum.

Colour as Language features more than 40 paintings by Etel Adnan. Instead of using an easel when she painted her works, she laid them flat on the table. ‘This comes from the fact that I started as a writer. I put a canvas on the table and I attack the surface as if I am writing’, Adnan once said. Her art is often based on the landscape, and she used colour and form to express herself in the works.

Etel Adnan, 'Untitled', 2014, oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm. Collection Jean Frémon. © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Paris/New York
Etel Adnan, ‘Untitled’, 2014, oil on canvas, 38 x 46 cm. Collection Jean Frémon. © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Paris/New York

In this sense, Adnan was also inspired by Vincent van Gogh. She saw colour as a direct expression of nature, and she considered Van Gogh to be the first artist to dare to apply this in his art: ‘He really liberated colour. Because he accepted it as true’. In the exhibition, Adnan’s powerful works are presented alongside the equally vivid paintings of Van Gogh, such as Wheatfield (1888) and Tree Roots (1890).

Vincent van Gogh, 'Wheatfield', 1888, oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)
Vincent van Gogh, ‘Wheatfield’, 1888, oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

Leporellos and tapestries
Colour as Language also features several of the tapestries designed by Adnan. In her youth in Beirut, Adnan did not have access to museums. She often admired Persian carpets with her father, calling that ‘our art world, back then’.

Adnan saw immense beauty in the craft and thought that the art of weaving was just as valuable as painting. Later in life, she commissioned colourful, abstract tapestries, based on her designs from the 1960s. Three of these tapestries will be on display in the exhibition.

Etel Adnan, 'Autumn Forest (Forêt automnale)', 2015​, Wool tapestry, 165 x 185 cm, © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Paris/New York
Etel Adnan, ‘Autumn Forest (Forêt automnale)’, 2015​, Wool tapestry, 165 x 185 cm, © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co., Paris/New York

The exhibition also includes leporellos: notebooks made from Japanese paper, with folded concertina-style pages. These leporellos became Adnan’s ultimate medium for drawing and writing, uniting images and language. For example, Adnan copied poetry from contemporary Arabic poets that she admired, before adding her own drawings.

Etel Adnan, 'Journey to Mount Tamalpais (Rihla ilâ Jabal Tamalpais)', 2008, Leporello, watercolour and Indian ink on Japanse paper, 54 pages, open 30 × 567 cm, closed 30 × 10.5 cm © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Museé de l’Institut du monde arabe, Paris (donation of Claude and France Lemand)
Etel Adnan, ‘Journey to Mount Tamalpais (Rihla ilâ Jabal Tamalpais)’, 2008, Leporello, watercolour and Indian ink on Japanse paper, 54 pages, open 30 × 567 cm, closed 30 × 10.5 cm © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Museé de l’Institut du monde arabe, Paris (donation of Claude and France Lemand)

She also had her own texts and poetry translated into Arabic, which she then illustrated on a leporello. Adnan’s leporellos will be displayed alongside a letter from Van Gogh, in which he tells his brother Theo of his interest in these Japanese sketchbooks.

Etel Adnan, 'Landscape', c. 1990, oil on canvas, 70 × 100 cm. © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Private collection (KA Collection, Lebanon)
Etel Adnan, ‘Landscape’, c. 1990, oil on canvas, 70 × 100 cm. © The Estate of Etel Adnan. Private collection (KA Collection, Lebanon)

This exhibition has been made possible by the support of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and main partners the VriendenLoterij, Van Lanschot and ASML.

Etel Adnan, 'California #9', 2013, oil on canvas, 30.5 × 41 cm, © The Estate of Etel Adnan, Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar
Etel Adnan, ‘California #9’, 2013, oil on canvas, 30.5 × 41 cm, © The Estate of Etel Adnan, Museum Voorlinden, Wassenaar

Colour as Language, the first retrospective of work by Etel Adnan in the Netherlands, is on display from 20 May to 4 September 2022 on the first floor of the Exhibition Wing at the Van Gogh Museum.

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER

selections-arts-logo

SELECTIONS is a platform for the arts, focusing on the Arab World.

Selections editorial presents a quarterly print magazine and weekly online publication with high quality content on all subjects related to Art and Culture. Full of world-leading artworks, exquisite brand imagery, original creative illustrations and insightful written articles.
Selections Viewing Rooms presents carefully curated online art shows aiming not only to shed light on contemporary art executed by living artists, but also for viewers to buy contemporary fine art, prints & multiples, photography, street art and collectibles.
Discover the previous and current shows here.
Cultural Narratives foundation is an extensive collection that is travelling the world by leading established and emerging talents aiming to reflect the culture of the region in their works.

RANDOM READS
Hala Schoukair, Untitled N°4, 2019, ink drawing on paper, 76 x 56 cm

MENART FAIR PARIS 2022

The second edition of the international modern and contemporary art…

Toygun Özdemir, Ribbit, Ribbit and Self-portrait in Three Colours, 2021. Oil on canvas, 125 × 200 × 3 cm

LISTE ART FAIR / BASEL 2022

Since its foundation, Liste has been regarded as one of…

NILUFAR, Analogia Project, Acquario ©mattiaiotti

Milan Design Week 2022

Here are some exhibitions and destinations to visit during Milan…

Portrait of Ayman Baalbaki by Serwan Baran.

SERWAN BARAN IN BEING AYMAN BAALBAKI ISSUE

By Serwan Baran My first meeting with Ayman was in…

Wahib Bteddini (Lebanon). Harvesting (or The Picking of the Apples in the Mountain), 1966. Source: Sursock Museum Archive, Beirut. Courtesy of The Nicolas Sursock Museum.

OLGA NEFEDOVA FOR MODERN ART AND ARTIST ESTATES: WAYS, WORKS AND ARCHIVES ISSUE

Interview with Olga Nefedova for Modern Art and Artist Estates:…

Pop Up Bubbles, a site-specific artwork Nadim Karam to be installed at Erasmus MC

“POP UP BUBBLES” BY ARTIST NADIM KARAM, AT ERASMUS MC, ROTTERDAM

Pop Up Bubbles, a large-scale site-specific artwork by Lebanese multidisciplinary…

june 2022

16febAll Day01julJITISH KALLAT | ORDER OF MAGNITUDE

16febAll Day01julJITISH KALLAT | ORDER OF MAGNITUDE

25febAll Day12junHUGUETTE CALAND | TÊTE-À-TÊTE