The Arts Club in London is a place with a long-standing tradition functioning as a meeting point for the intellectuals. Throughout the years this particular members-only social venue became known for influencing and supporting the careers of scientists and artists. It is a cozy environment (for the privileged) where leisure can be enjoyed through the inspiring conversations, but art as well.
The Arts Club holds an impressive collection of paintings and drawings (the works span from the emerging artists to the established ones) and organizes temporary exhibitions presented throughout the lavish rooms of an 18th-century townhouse.
The upcoming exhibition will feature the art of two distinct figures, Etel Adnan and Ilse D’Hollander to be presented across the Club’s Drawing Room and Ante-Room. The idea of the curators Amelie von Wedel and Pernilla Holmes of Wedel Art to put the two artists in the dialog is rooted in the similarities they share when it comes to the specific approach to abstraction.
Etel Adnan is a Lebanese-born American author and visual artist who expresses herself through painting, drawing, tapestry, film, and ceramics. This renowned creative came to prominence in the 1960s as a writer focused on the critical articulation of the Vietnam War, the Algerian War, and the Lebanese Civil War. She studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, and UC Berkeley and Harvard in the United States.
Adnan started painting after settling in California, believing that "colors exist for her as entities in themselves, as metaphysical beings, like the attributes of God exist as metaphysical entities." The artist usually paints with the canvas positioned on a table, by using a palette knife to apply the paint across the surface (the color palette and the painterly gestures evoke the paintings of Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky). She found the landscape most satisfying, especially the nearby Mount Tamalpais, since it offered a perfect backdrop for the memory and a sense of displacement, matters affiliated with the artist’s personal experience.
Part of her practice are leporellos, pocket-sized books that unfold like a scroll, as well as also wool tapestries. These books are filled with abstract landscapes, Adnan’s writings and transcriptions of Arab poetry by writers such as Yusuf al-Khal and Mahmoud Darwish. The artist’s recent works are based on her memory and hazy landscapes consisting of geometrically shaped horizon and sky.
In general, Adnan's entire practice is embedded in the explorations of the inner and outer influences expressed through colorful abstract images which will be proven with the upcoming exhibition consisting of textile works, prints, ink drawings, and paintings.
Through her short life interrupted by an untimely death, Belgian artist Ilse D’Hollander made a striking body of work based on the deliberation of the intense relationship between representation and abstraction.
This acclaimed painter was born and lived in a small and quiet pastoral Belgian environment, first in Sint-Niklaas, and then in Paulatem, which inspired her work very much. The simplistic approach to the landscape characterized by striking geometric blocks and bands of color and the overall layered effect reflects a deeply personal state of D’Hollander and the feeling of isolation and contemplation.
D'Hollander's entire oeuvre suggests a highly developed sense of color, composition, scale, and surface. Although her works are indeed abstractions, they reveal the artist’s close observations of every day, especially the nature of the Flemish countryside where she spent the last and most productive years of her life; her ethereal and subtle works are mostly reminiscent of the early paintings of Piet Mondrian or Nicolas de Staël. In the only text she wrote about her work. D’Hollander nicely emphasized:
A painting comes into being when ideas and the act of painting coincide. When referring to ideas, it implies that as a painter, I am not facing my canvas as a neutral being but as an acting being who is investing into the act of painting. My being is present in my action on the canvas.
The Arts Club exhibition will feature a selection of paintings on canvas and cardboard in an attempt to revisit her magnificent body of work.
It seems that the decision to put the works of two artists belonging to different generations in such conversation lies in the fact that they share the same interest in the matters of the treatment of the surface, form and the color palette. Aside from the purely painterly perspective, they were apparently devoted to a sort of ratification of their own inner and outer processes through the painting which implies the therapeutic value of the same.
Etel Adnan and Ilse D’Hollander will be on display at The Arts Club in London from 16 September 2019 until January 2020.
Featured images: Etel Adnan - Acrobaties Printanières (Springtime Acrobatics),1967–70/2015. Tapestry, 63 x 78.75 inches; Etel Adnan - Danse Nocture, 2019. Wool Tapestry, 175 x 255 cm. All images courtesy The Arts Club.