She had to wait until she was 87 years old to achieve recognition. It was in 2012 when she took part in the much anticipated Documenta in Kassel.
Etel Adnan, born in 1925, received me at her apartment not far from the Place Saint Sulpice in the quarter of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris.
She manages to be both lively and calm at the same time.
Although she no longer travels, her work is the subject of numerous exhibitions currently showing around the world, like in Bern in dialogue with the paintings of Paul Klee at the Zentrum Paul Klee, in Arles at the Van Gogh foundation as part of the exhibition “Hot Sun Late Sun”, in Marrakesh at the Yves Saint Laurent museum too as part of “Garden of Memory” in dialogue with her partner the sculptor Simone Fattal and the theatre director Bob Wilson, and also at MassMoca in North Adams, Massachusetts, in A yellow sun, A green sun, A yellow sun, A red sun, A blue sun.
The strength of her work lies, paradoxically, in a multidisciplinary creativity that remains for the most part underdeveloped in the large number of exhibitions in which she is participating.
Etel paints and writes poetry, always at the same desk. Etel paints and writes about the same things.
Her words and her paintings share the same spiritual ink. Her texts should be listened to or read while you look at her paintings, which are generally small scale works that tend to be composed of colourful, simple and contrasting shapes with a cubist quality.
Etel is a Lebanese polyglot. She spent part of her life in California before coming to live in Paris. She plays the quickfire filmed interview game and talks about time, space, recognition and, of course, painting and poetry…
She says: “I have a deep love for life, the phenomenon of life“.
When and how did you understand that you were an artist?
Which painters have inspired you?
What is success?
How important is the idea of nationality for you?
What distinction do you make between painting and poetry?
Can you show us where you usually paint?
What would you like people to remember about you?
We might conclude with some lines taken from her collection “Nights”, (Nightboat books. New York).
Am only because I have been? (…)
Tonight I have invited my shadow”