Etel Adnan, Un Jardin / A Garden, 2019. Folded leporello book and watercolor on paper. Cover: 29 x 9.5 cm x 4 cm, 60 pages: 28.7 x 9.2 cm each. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/Hamburg

Etel Adnan’s The Uprising of Colours Tantalises at Sfeir- Semler Gallery in Beirut

With a splash of colourful panache, Lebanese-American poet, essayist and visual artist Etel Adnan spreads a palette of joy to counter the grim reality of life in the Lebanese capital.

The exhibition of Adnan’s work in Beirut at the Sfeir-Semler Gallery is a desire to see art go beyond the mundane by celebrating culture as something resilient to global calamity, be it the new coronavirus or economic uncertainty. The title of the exhibition, The Uprising of Colours, references what the gallery calls “art’s capacity to bring colours into a grim quotidian,” which serves to complement Adnan’s writing chronicling the harsh realities of life across the Arab World.

The 95-year old Adnan’s latest show comes on the heels of several major exhibitions of her work, including at DOCUMENTA 13 (2012) in Kassel, the Serpentine in London (2016) and SFMOMA in San Francisco (2018).

The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.
The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.

Le Soleil Toujours

Welcoming visitors is wallpaper situated at the entrance of the gallery inscribed with the words Le Soleil Toujours (“The Sun Always”), a work with potent symbolism referencing the exhibition’s optimistic undertones.

The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.
The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.

The Arab Apocalypse

In the background, as an excerpt of Adnan’s The Arab Apocalypse is read aloud, the optimistic undertones of the exhibition begin to suddenly fade. Originally written in French, Adnan’s poetry documents the destruction of Beirut.

Imam Ali dances over a nuclear blast cursed are the clouds which repel cursed are the Arabs who fell tall and haggard eucalyptus trees

The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.
The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.

The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.
The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.

Adnan’s writing serves to underlie the diversity of cultural influences in the Middle East and how it could produce magnificent poetry, albeit, a beauty produced amidst the rubble of destruction and warfare.

Using a knife palette, the stunning contrast between the rainbow colour palette and the resounding gritty realism of Adnan’s writing becomes suddenly apparent. Suspended in between moments of doom, the paintings boast whimsical, happiness-inducing hues of blue, red and yellow.

Small format works unfold via abstract colours and shapes. Juxtaposed to Adnan’s poetry, these forms transform the space by virtue of simple lines and colours. When they’re contrasted to the energy of Adan’s poetry, the space of the gallery is transformed, as it unfolds towards a more dystopian direction. Bearing witness to war via the language of visual art, the exhibition also includes tapestries that are based on cartoons from the 1960s, a medium that became an important part of Adnan’s work after
she discovered, in the early ‘50s, The Lady and the Unicorn, a series of six tapestries dating back to the 16th century.

Etel Adnan, Un Jardin / A Garden, 2019. Folded leporello book and watercolor on paper. Cover: 29 x 9.5 cm x 4 cm, 60 pages: 28.7 x 9.2 cm each. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/Hamburg
Etel Adnan, Un Jardin / A Garden, 2019. Folded leporello book and watercolor on paper. Cover: 29 x 9.5 cm x 4 cm, 60 pages: 28.7 x 9.2 cm each. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/Hamburg

The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.
The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.

The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.
The uprising of colors, 2020. Exhibition view. Courtesy of the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery Beirut/ Hamburg.

The Uprising of Colours is on view until April 11, 2020 at Sfeir- Semler Gallery in Beirut.


A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGES 34 -37.

Dorian Batycka

Dorian Batycka is a Canadian curator, art critic and DJ based in Muscat, Oman. He is currently curator at Bait Muzna for Art Film. Previously, he was assistant curator for the first ever Maldives National Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale and has contributed to numerous publications, including Art and Education, Frieze Blog, and Nero. He can be found on Twitter.

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
Yasmine Berrada

YASMINE BERRADA REMEMBERS MOROCCAN ARTIST MOHAMED MELEHI

The Moroccan gallerist and co-founder of Casablanca-based Loft Art Gallery…

Afshin Pirhashemi, Untitled, 2017. Oil on canvas, 200 x 330 cm

AFSHIN PIRHASHEMI | CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?

Can You Keep a Secret? is a solo exhibition featuring…

RESURRECTING THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Rebecca Anne Proctor speaks with Zein Khalfia and Heba Farid,…

Annalisa Rosso, Hypersizing! 2020. Printed textile by Punto Seta, 4 items - 140cm x 220cm. Edition 1+1AP

EXTRAPERLO 2021 – CURATING CURATORS

Founded by Spanish designer Jorge Penadés, EXTRAPERLO is a curatorial…

Massimo De Carlo Pièce Unique, Paris. Photo by Delfino Sisto Legnani and Piercarlo Quecchia . Courtesy MASSIMODECARLO

MASSIMO DE CARLO OPENS IN PARIS

The art system should by definition be in constant development,…

Afra Al Suwaidi, Unsheltered 04, 2020. Collage, mixed media, 53 x 40 cm (h x w)

THE EXPERIMENTAL CATALOGUE | MAYA EL KHALIL

An adventure into art in a digital time going online…

march 2021

05novAll Day31marSELMA GÜRBÜZ | THIS PLACE WE CALL WORLD

11janAll Day14marNUR نور (LIGHT) OPEN CALL | CASA ARABE – PHOTOESPAÑA

14janAll Day20marCLAUDIO BRAVO