Serpentine-Sackler-Gallery

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Celebrating the new scent collaboration from Comme des Garçons, Tracey Emin, and London’s Serpentine Galleries

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Etel Adnan + Alex Katz - Serpentine Galleries, July 2016

Entrance to Etel Adnan: The Weight of the World (Serpentine Sackler Gallery)

I had read about this exhibition opening on Artnet or maybe The Art Newspaper and was really excited about it because I immediately loved the colours but did not know the artist at all. 

As my mom is currently visiting me in London I thought this would be a great time to see the show and we were both pleasantly surprised. 

Adnan is a Lebanese artist, poet, essayist who grew up in Lebanon, Syria, France (Paris) and the US (California). Her father fought in the Ottoman army and she was very much influenced by the colours and the different landscapes that she saw growing up. As soon as I read that she had moved to Berkeley (Cali) in the 1960s I expected her colour palette to match Diebenkorn’s and to exhibit some similarities. 

Etel Adnan, Untitled

Etel Adnan, California Coast I

Take a look at the two oil paintings above. Whilst the technique and the colour saturation is different for those familiar with Diebenkorn’s work it is easy to draw connections and associate the two with the Californian colours and Berkeley vibes. 

Adnan is also impressive because of her wide range of works and techniques. The first photo, taken at the entrance, shows two of her weaved pieces. Similarly she works with ceramic, as illustrated by the two panels below. The panels themselves feel extremely light and could be mistaken for canvases if it weren’t for their reflective glaze.

Finally her calligraphy, her stories, the poems she recorded and her memoir on the Ottoman empire falling and her memories of Ataturk rising to power are beautifully contained in journals with splashes of illustrations in watercolour. One of these reminded me of Kandinsky and his colour symphonies.

Now whilst I am now in love with Adnan’s work and will be sure to study her in greater detail, Alexander Katz’s exhibition in the other Serpentine Gallery was less impressive.

Briefly, before turning to Katz, I wanted to mention this year’s Pavillion by Ingels. Unlike last year’s with its nauseating smell of hot plastic and its kindergarten qualities, this pavilion is stunning. The rectangular open bricks create beautiful illusions as you walk around the exterior and the interior. It’s also a great place to relax, grab a coffee and read because it has a great combination of natural light and shade.

Back to Katz now. I knew him as an American artist, from New York, who had experimented with abstract landscapes and had been attracted to the idea of stripping landscapes of the minimum required to convey the information necessary. Whilst the paintings in themselves are not lacking in colour, they didn’t speak to me as much as I thought they would.

The canvases are massive and the colours are bright, in a way this ties them with Adnan’s show across the bridge, but the brush strokes and the subjects were somewhat lacking in something distinctive.

At any rate it was an enjoyable day, walking in Hyde Park and discovering new artists is never time badly spent.

Practical information: Alex Katz and Etel Adnan’s shows will close to the public on the 11th of September whilst the Pavillion will remain until the 9th of October.