Examining the nature inspirations of Etel Adnan

Tuesday Night Painting #6

Etel Adnan in 2014

Hello painters, 

Last week I wrote to you about the flooding that occurred in the South End which affected many of the shops and galleries in the neighborhood. This week I have a link to the fundraiser for AREA Gallery. There's a wide range of artwork on offer here so I encourage you to check it out and let me know what you think. You might find something you like from a local artist.

By my count we are somewhere around the 45th day of "lockdown" now -- how is everyone handling it? We just bought a three liter canister of olive oil so things are going pretty good over here. I've been kept busy by my two online classes but that leaves some time free for me to work on various painting projects. I've been trying to stay productive, although there are arguments to resist that impulse.

I'll share a few things I've been working on later on in the newsletter but for now I want to introduce you (or re-introduce you) to the Lebanese-American painter Etel Adnan.

Etel Adnan,  Pink Whale, 2017, 19 x 15 in

Etel Adnan, Untitled, 2016, Oil on canvas, 18 x 15 in
Etel Adnan was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1925, yet her career as a painter did not take off until she was in her eighties. Over the course of her lifetime she has worked as a writer, newspaper editor, and professor, but over the past decade it has been her paintings that have received an increasing amount of attention, having been featured in numerous gallery and museum shows across the globe. She was highlighted in a well-received 2017 MoMA show called Making Space: Women Artists and Post-War Abstraction.
Untitled, 2014, oil on canvas, 9 x 12 in
Untitled, 2014, Oil on canvas, 9 x 12 in
Untitled, 2014, Oil on canvas, 10 x 12 in
As you can see, Adnan's canvases are simple meditations on color and landscape. A major element of Adnan's history as a painter goes back to the time she spent living in Marin County, CA. She always had a good view of Mount Tamalpais from her house and was drawn to the simplicity and power of the mountain as an icon. “To observe its constant changes became my major preoccupation,” she has written. “I even wrote a book in order to come to terms with it—but the experience overflowed my writing. I was addicted.”
A point of comparison: the paintings created by Paul Cezanne while studying Mont-Saint-Victoire in Provence. Cezanne continuously returned to this mountain throughout his career and the early stages of Abstraction and Cubism can be traced by studying his varying approaches.
Personally, I'm drawn to the simplicity of the forms. I find it difficult to make a painting with so few elements in it, and with large areas of unmodulated color. I also appreciate the color palettes that Adnan creates. I enjoy seeing the changing seasons and weather patterns in her paintings; the warm tones and sky blue sky, versus the cooler greens and stormy sky, versus the sea foam green sky. I can imagine how seeing the mountain every day creates a sense of stability and permanence.
Saloua Raouda Choucair, Composition with a Circle, 1952, gouache on canvas, 25 x 32 cm
Saloua Raouda Choucair, Gradual Rhythmic Composition, 1953, gouache on canvas, 22 x 50 cm
Saloua Raouda Choucair, Composition for a Tapestry, 1956, gouache on canvas, 20 x 49 cm
Saloua Raouda Choucair, Experiment with Calligraphy, 1949, gouache on canvas, 48 x 31 cm
When you consider her time spent in California combined with her Lebanese origins and her education in philosophy in Paris, you might guess that Adnan has a wide range of inspirations and influences to draw upon. One of her equally long-lived Lebanese contemporaries is the painter and sculptor Saloua Raouda Choucair. I include a few of her compositions here because while some of her work demonstrates the uncomplicated approach seen in Adnan's work, other canvases are busier but still rhythmic affairs.
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I have some sort of Etel Adnan type canvas in progress here. This piece of canvas actually has been serving as a kind of dumping ground for paint that I've mixed for other projects that I don't need anymore. So when I'm done with one section of my main painting, I'll just come over to this canvas and paint down a swatch of color because I don't want it to go to waste. I don't know where this painting will end up but for now I am enjoying how there's a somewhat cohesive color palette in development. 

I've taken some of my own paintings out on a field trip recently. Here they are pictured at Revere Beach. It was a fairly warm day yet not a lot of people had come to the beach (thankfully?) so there was plenty of room for a photo shoot while maintaining social distance.

And here is one from a slightly less scenic location above the Mass Pike: 

And so we reach the end of another Tuesday Night letter. I hope to write to you again next Tuesday to keep the painting vibes going. The soundtrack this week is all electronic. Hope you enjoy:

Myd - Talk To Me
Boys Noize ft. Francis and the Lights - Why Not?
Polo & Pan - Zoom Zoom
Project Pablo - Beaubien Dream

See you next time!
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