Arbre 4 | Arbres, 2019

Photo: Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

Ink and pastel on paper. 
30.5 x 40 cm, 45.5 x 54.5 cm (framed)

Over her long career, the Lebanese-American writer, poet, and artist Etel Adnan developed a versatile practice that traverses cultures, mediums, and disciplines, with works ranging from poetry to tapestry, from ceramics to painting and film. Born to a Greek-Syrian family, Adnan emigrated to Paris to study philosophy at the Sorbonne and began to paint much later in life, when living in the United States, where she taught philosophy of aesthetics. Her Levantine cultural legacy, the political and social upheavals in the Mediterranean region, and her nomadic character are all intimately embedded in her work. 

The series “Arbres” (trees) first shown at C3A in 2021, relates to the last years of Adnan’s life, when she began to reflect on death while writing her book Shifting the Silence (2020). These works resonate with the landscapes of Beirut and its surroundings, devastated by the Lebanese Civil War, bringing them back to life. The pastel drawings on colored paper hold the movement of both the trees and the wind. Adnan repeatedly traced the trees of her native land, drawing the shifting roots, trunks, leaves, and branches. Through painting, she conveyed her personal relationship to nature as living a subject, each painting an “expression of a universal encounter.” In the verses of the poem Tout arbre est un chant (Every Tree is a Song), she translates into writing a fluid relationship to the world, giving voice to what exceeds the material presence of things and places them into the realm of the spiritual and the affective. 

Tout arbre est un chant
Voici la splendeur de ce pays,
sec et pourtant vivant,
que l’on ne croit
qu’habités des dieux,
dans leur silence.

On voudrait partager avec ces arbres
leur secret,
le rythme de leur beauté,
leur être absolu

Every tree is a song
Here is the majesty of this land,
dry and yet so alive,
that it might be expected
inhabited by the gods,
in their silence.

We would like to share with these trees
their secret,
the rhythm of their beauty,
their absolute being.


Group show: Remedios
Venue: C3A Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía, Córdoba
Curator: Daniela Zyman
Exhibition 14 April 2023 -  March 2024

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1925. Died in Paris, France, in 2021.