Edel Adnan @ Serpentine Sackler

The work inside Edel Adnan’s Serpentine show is bright and colourful. It doesn’t scream for joy, but it certainly does not appear to be at all woeful. It comes as a surprise then, that it has been titled ‘The Weight of the World’, a term that comes with a lot of negative connotations.

Adnan is more famous for her political writing than her artwork, which may explain the title to her first UK solo show. Adnan was born in 1920s Beirut and has spent her life between, France, Lebanon and the USA. Her writing is apparent in the show, with many stretches of folded card displayed in glass cases. Scrawled upon this paper is writing in both arabic and english, which has then been painted over with striped washes of colour. Although I cannot read Arabic, I can read English, and the political nature of the work is clear in writings about the Ottoman treatment of the Armenians and Greeks at the beginning of the twentieth-century, one can only imagine what Adnan has written about in Arabic.

However, you would be wrong to think that this show is anything but heavy. In fact, Adnan has even explained that her paintings reflect an ‘immense love for the world.’ Perhaps the artist’s political writings have been a plea to others to respect the earth that she loves. Previously she has written about the Vietnam War, yet the images appear free of any pain or suffering. Her palette is soft and airy. Interestingly, not one work is figurative, yet there are dozens upon dozens of landscapes and seascapes, visions into an idyllic world. Beside her concertina’d cards of words, are the same folded origami pieces with endless green hills.

Also on display is tapestry and drawing – still just as calm as the paintings. Adnan’s work does not provoke, it does not shout, it is completely undisturbed, exactly what you need when you can feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Edel Adnan: The Weight of the World is on display at Serpentine Sackler until 11 September

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Lizzy Vartanian Collier is a London-based writer with a special interest in contemporary Middle Eastern Art. She has a BA in Art History and an MA in Contemporary Art and Art Theory of Asia and Africa from the School of Oriental and African Studies. She runs the Gallery Girl blog and has written for After Nyne, Arteviste, Canvas Magazine, Harper's Bazaar Arabia, Ibraaz, Jdeed Magazine, ReOrient and Suitcase Magazine. Lizzy is also curator of Arab Women Artists Now - AWAN 2018 (London).

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