The Weight of the World
Painter, essayist and poet Etel Adnan (born 1925 in Beirut) works in various media, from painting, drawing, poetry, film and tapestry. After studying at the Sorbonne and then Harvard, in the late 1950s, Adnan taught philosophy at the University of California and started to paint.
Her early works were largely abstract compositions she was interested in the immediate beauty of colour. These earliest paintings were suggestive of landscapes and included forms that referenced specific places. In the 1970s she moved to the area near Mount Tamalpais in California, which became the central subject matter of numerous paintings and poems.
From the 1960s until the present, Adnan has also made tapestries, inspired by the Persian rugs of her childhood. Over the course of the 1960s, she moved away from purely abstract forms and discovered leporellos (accordion-folded sketchbooks) in which she could mix drawing with writing and poetry.
Her writing contains multiple references and responses to the politics and violence in the world around her. From her earliest poem in English, which addressed the Vietnam War, to her award-winning 1978 novel, Sitt Marie-Rose, she explores the political and personal dimensions of violence and articulates her experience of exile from familiar landscapes and languages.
Adnans artworks feature in numerous collections, including Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the British Museum, London.
Published on occasion of the exhibition Etel Adnan: The Weight of the World at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London, 2 June 11 September 2016.