Simone Fattal: Fix Your Gaze On Saturn’s Rings

Simone Fattal on the title of her new exhibition at Bergen Kunsthall: “Fix Your Gaze On Saturn’s Rings”. On view till 22 March.

The exhibition features a large number of works from the 1970s until today, presented in a characteristic non-chronologic installation in which a myriad of narrative threads and layers appear through the juxtapositions of works in different media and formal idioms and on different scales.

A whole world of memories, ideas and references to history, mythology, poetry and contemporary politics is precipitated in Simone Fattal’s works, which have come to life in close interaction with the sites and experiences that have surrounded the artist. Born in Syria and raised in Lebanon, Fattal studied philosophy in Paris and established herself as an artist at the end of the 1970s in Beirut. In 1982, she moved to California, where she started the publishing venture Post-Apollo Press. The exhibition includes a selection of publications by Post-Apollo Press, illustrated both by Fattal herself and by her life partner, the poet and painter Etel Adnan.

At the end of the 1980s Fattal started to work in ceramics and created her own formal language with sketch-like – barely formed, liminal, but highly suggestive – figurative sculptures. The works visibly exhibit the traces of their own making, spontaneously shaped between two hands on a working table. At first glance the objects are reminiscent of ancient artefacts, souvenirs or idiosyncratic collectibles often found in domestic environments, in which very different objects come together to form a personal story. While these are often modest in size, other works shift the potential of ceramics into large objects on a bodily scale.

As with the often unassuming motifs of the sculptures, the mountain landscapes, trees and fruit motifs of Fattal’s paintings and watercolours point beyond themselves: both to a beautiful, personal landscape of memory and to experiences situated in politics, conflict and destruction. Some of the watercolours are inspired by Fattal’s childhood memories of Damascus – one of the oldest cities in the world, once surrounded by an oasis of rich vegetation. This lost paradise is represented by way of luxuriant depictions of fruit, trees and gardens, as symbols of a non-western cultural diversity. In the same way memories and fragments from history seep into Fattal’s collages, where postcards and magazine cuttings are juxtaposed with drawings, photographs of her own works or images of the artist herself. Fattal’s works possess a timelessness – at once archaic and modern – that places them beyond any stylistic epoch or definable period. First and foremost, they exhibit a profound humanism and a reflection on humanity and its place in the world and in history.

Simone Fattal (f. 1942, Damaskus, Syria) lives and works in Paris.