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Découverte De L'immédiat 1, 2021 © The Estate Of Etel Adnan : ADAGP : Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co
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Etel Adnan, Découverte de l’immédiat 7, 2021

© The Estate of Etel Adnan / ADAGP / Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co.

 

In the last year of her life, Lebanese-American artist and writer Etel Adnan created a series of minimalist paintings – single lines capturing domestic still lifes created under pandemic restrictions in Paris. While Adnan’s style is best encapsulated by her blocky, bright canvases, their paint applied with a palette knife, these quiet works are sparse, textured, even tense. They carry a sense of newness, suggested too by their title which, in English, means “Discovery of Immediacy,” a quiet hollowness, solitude in the city; a novel apprehension of the term “still life”.

Adnan’s book Shifting the Silence was published in 2020, and addresses the great space of death – both what it means, and its unspeakableness. She writes of Greece: “To put one’s feet on the rocks of Delphi is worth damnation. And to Sikiyonou the offerings for the oracle are still coming. For me, the pain of dying is going to be the impossibility of visiting that site one more time. When you have no way to go anywhere, what do you do? Of course, nothing. But that’s no answer.”

Adnan reads these words as part of a long passage from the book in a video made during the first pandemic lockdown, for which she was joined by radical American poet Alice Notley. The readings took place on a Zoom call for people attending the Poetry Room’s Vocarium Reading Series. The video is on YouTube and the caption reads, “A very moving interchange between the poets and audience occurred after the reading and is documented in this video.” After Notley and Adnan have read, the organiser tells the audience that they can unmute their microphones and speak, and for the next ten minutes there is applause and a chorus of thank yous in English and French. “Next stop Paris, right?” says the organiser, and Adnan crows, “Come over!” She died in November 2021. ◉