EXHIBITION: Etel Adnan et les Modernes at MUDAM Luxembourg – through Sep 08, 2019

Since the 1960s, the poet, writer and painter Etel Adnan (b. 1925, Beirut) has built up a body of work that makes significant links between the image and text; Eastern and Western cultures; Modernism and contemporary art. Her work reflects a sensitive, dynamic relationship with the world, exploring questions of landscape, abstraction, colour, writing, memory and history. Her exhibition at Mudam, which is hosted across two galleries on the upper floor of the museum, assembles a broad spectrum of her work, including paintings, works on paper and tapestries. These are shown together in dialogue with works by Modernists and contemporary artists, shedding fresh light on her multifaceted oeuvre.

Among the works on show, there is a group of recent, abstract works by Adnan. The artist describes these paintings as ‘inner landscapes’, drawing on her recollections of places she has visited.  These works are placed in dialogue with others by the painter and poet Eugénie Paultre (b. 1979, Paris) and sculptor Simone Fattal (b. 1942, Damascus) with whom she maintains a close connection.

For further information: mudam.com

EXHIBITION: Works and Days at Moma PS1 – on view through September 2, 2019

MoMA PS1 presents the first solo museum exhibition in the United States of the work of Simone Fattal (Lebanese and American, b. 1942). This retrospective brings together over 200 works created over the last 50 years, featuring abstract and figurative ceramic sculptures, paintings, watercolors, and collages that draw from a range of sources including war narratives, landscape painting, ancient history, mythology, and Sufi poetry to explore the impact of displacement as well as the politics of archeology and excavation.

Simone Fattal: Works and Days explores the impact of displacement, as well as the politics of archeology and excavation, as these themes resonate across the artist’s multifaceted practice. Fattal’s work constructs a world that has emerged from history and memory, and its replications and repetitions grapple with the losses of time while revealing its reoccurrences. Never far from the earth, her works emerge as an unfinished project of telling the stories of ancient history with figures taken from central references such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Odyssey, Dhat al-Himma, and others. Both timeless and specific, her work straddles the contemporary, the archaic, and the mythic.

The exhibition highlights the artist’s immense production over the last four decades. Nearly 200 sculptural works made of ceramic, stoneware, terracotta, bronze, and porcelain are displayed on architectural plinth structures that move through different themes within her oeuvre. Alongside these varied sculptural works, the exhibition also includes a grouping of Fattal’s early paintings, a later series of abstracted black and white paintings made in 2013, and a series of watercolors made in 2016, Suite en Jaune N°1, for which she dripped black ink onto paper and then painstakingly filled in the spaces around the black with bright-yellow paint.

For further information and images: moma.org

INTERVIEW : Collage of Mass Destruction, L’Officiel Art, Spring 2016


Simone Fattal was born in Damascus, grew up in Lebanon, studied in France and made California her home before returning to live and work in Paris. Her practice spans several media but is constantly impregnated with the history of the regions of today’s Arab world, tracing a fine line between genius of forms and poetry of thought. Simone Fattal opened the doors of her studio in Paris to L’Officiel Art to discuss her very latest collage.


L’Officiel Art: Painting in your youth, then literary endeavors, ceramic and clay sculptures, cinema and collages… Your artistic journey has been an exploration of multiple media. From clay to paper, is there a raw material that is common to all your works?

Simon Fattal: The raw material that underpins everything I do is necessity, meaning that I don’t see my life or work as distinct from the political and social context around me. I like to think I show great empathy. To go one step further, I would be tempted to say that I am the raw material of my work, to the extent that I am ingrained in the country that saw me come into the world. Sure, my life has been that of a nomad, but I carry within me the destiny of my country wherever I happen to be. I see no contradiction between painting, film and sculpture. If my painting is generally abstract, my sculptures are mostly characters, which nonetheless tend toward abstraction.


You have lived in Lebanon, the USA and France, entwined in multiple trajectories fractured by trips comings-and-goings and by the departure from Lebanon in 1980 during the civil war. How do these geographical fluctuations impregnate your work?

They are essential. After studying philosophy in France, I returned to Lebanon to found a school to reinvent the education system with the aim of producing new human beings. I was forced to renounce this utopia in the light of the structural impediments of an ungovernable country. It’s clearly apparent today, after years of civil war, that the Lebanese have still not found the common denominator enabling them all to live together. After this failure, I fell back on more personal actions. For a long time, I tried to stay in Lebanon despite the civil war and only left in 1980, five years after war broke out. It took me five years to realize it would be a never-ending war. When I arrived in California, painting seemed a meaningless occupation. I had nothing to say about a landscape that wasn’t mine. It was then that I founded The Post-Apollo Press, which allowed me to find my place and helped my comprehension of my new environment. Even so, I couldn’t live without an artistic activity. I went back to sculpture, a practice begun in the last days of my life in Lebanon. I was already making assemblages, kind of 3D collages. Soon after, almost simultaneously, I started to make collages. Initially, I didn’t take them too seriously. I worked fast, as if in immediate response to reality and political circumstances, as opposed to sculpture, which was a response to the same reality but through a much slower and subtler process.


Like so many tracks, imprints or scars, your collages seem to defy any established order. How does the collage you have chosen to reveal in the pages of L’Officiel Art respond to the idea of dystopia?

For me, the idea of dystopia is to create a world, a virtual place that might promote thought, and that’s what I do with my collages by juxtaposing images from different worlds and periods. For example, images from the mid-19th century, such as the painting that shows the ransacking of Emir Abd el-Kader’s camp in Algeria or the first photo taken in Egypt of the Khedive’s wife, and images from the 20th century, such as the first man in space. I hope that the viewer will establish relations between these images. And all these images are stuck on a base that is the Mediterranean Sea, which is the geographical center of the world for me.


Could you describe the collage, reveal its composition and explain the tensions going through it?

The collage is titled Ils ont trouvé des armes de destruction massive (They have found weapons of mass destruction, 2016), in reference to the arguments that triggered the Iraq War and were later shown to be false. The collage features a photograph I took of a small ceramic that I made at the time, when I was living in Sausalito. It was a little bridge, under which I had laid down three batons of varying sizes. I called the piece Armes de destruction massive (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and exhibited it at an open day in the studio I shared in San Rafael with three female potters. All the visitors exclaimed, “Ah! So that’s where there are! We’ve found those weapons of mass destruction, after all!”

So there is a war aspect to the collage. It also features four horse riders, who seemed very aggressive to me and reminded me of the horsemen of the Apocalypse, which confirmed in my mind the choice of title. Besides these elements, this collage seems to sum up all the other collages I have made, even though it contains elements I never would have thought I’d use, including images of the Pope! I’ve been known to keep images for years before using them. Recently, some pictures of Pope John XXIII, which I found in an old copy of Paris Match, seemed to me to be very important. I sensed that I had to keep them. The Pope had posed for the sculptor Giacomo Manzu, who made wondrous use of the portraits, notably one image, in which it seemed to me that the Pope was weeping over the state of the world. That led to me to include as an accompaniment another religious figure, a Muslim saint, Prince Abd el-Kader, who took up arms out of necessity, even though he was a Sufi, in no way a warrior. And the other images are all interconnected to form a mental geography that fosters reflection or perhaps a kind of reverie. My collages have to be read slowly, just like Persian or Arab miniatures, in which one always picks out details to consider.


Although, at first sight, your sculptures may seem as old as the world, your collages testify to a plentiful multiculturalism that is very modern. What did last year’s installation of these works together, at Galerie Balice-Herling, reveal? Which territory do your collages and sculptures have in common?

My collages and my sculptures come from the same world. My preoccupations in both are the same. They all speak to the history of art, archeology and, simply, history. Whereas the collages talk explicitly about all that, the sculptures keep it within.


Interviewed by William Massey

EXHIBITION: Heartland – Territoire D’Affects, Beirut Exhibition Center, An exhibit by 17 Lebanese contemporary artists

Internationally renowned Lebanese artists will present their artworks addressing the emotional territory of love, disenchantment, fusion and rejection. The participating artists react to an imposed situation, an experience, a sensation, a memory. They express themselves through sounds, installations, paintings, photography, and films. A highly sensitive exhibition whose idea is to touch the artists’ truth, and thus, that of the visitors.