Nov 06, 2021 Feb 21, 2022

Writing is drawing

Based on an idea by Etel Adnan
Etel Adnan, Rihla i lâ Jabal Tamalpaïs, 2008


Nov 06, 2021 Feb 21, 2022


Galerie 1


Jean-Marie Gallais, responsable du pôle Programmation du Centre Pompidou-Metz

Born out of a conversation with artist, poet and writer Etel Adnan (b. 1925), the exhibition Writing is Drawing explores our fascination with writing and its signs, and their proximity to the practice of drawing, contrasting the handwritten world with the digital one.

The artist recalls with great simplicity and sensitivity how the arrival of a letter was once - not so long ago - a considerably more eloquent event than the receipt of an email. Depending on the handwriting, the choice of language (itself varying between French, Arabic and English), the colour of the ink, the use of the sheet of paper or the envelope itself, the recipient could already give a hint of the correspondent's state of mind. Mood, character or age were all factors that made the writing evolve, information that keyboards have made disappear.

This conversation gave rise to the idea of an exhibition highlighting the poetry of this "ancient knowledge" that is writing, through letters and manuscripts, but also graphic works from the collections of the Centre Pompidou, where the written word blends with the image, or even disappears completely. The narrative media of the leporello, the scroll, the book and the illustrated cycle are the focus of this presentation, which brings together sets of drawings, notes and works by Etel Adnan, Pierre Alechinsky, Roland Barthes, Irma Blank, Pierrette Bloch, Louise Bourgeois, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Mirtha Dermisache, Christian Dotremont, A.R. Penck, Nancy Spero and Jacques Villeglé.

These works are set against writing cabinets containing autograph manuscripts of illustrious personalities (Arthur Rimbaud, Victor Hugo, Antonin Artaud, etc.) as well as precious treasures from the heritage collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (writing materials and ancient manuscripts from different civilizations, writers' drafts, poetry collections, etc.), from the Louvre, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Contemporary Art. ), the Louvre, the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Libraries-Mediatheques of Metz and the Grand Est (Paul Verlaine collection, medieval illuminations, etc.), in connection with works and films by Guy de Cointet, Alighiero e Boetti, Yuichi Inoué, James Lee Byars and Art Brut. Testifying to a primordial interweaving and infinite richness between writing and drawing, sign and trace, this dialogue gives the exhibition its title: Writing is drawing.

Etel Adnan thus dreams that in this exhibition we look at simple writing, whatever its language and handwriting, "like a painting in a museum."



Exhibition organised with the support of the Bibliothèque nationale de France

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Founding Patron:

With the support of the Fondation La Poste

With the support of the Fondation Jan Michalski

In media partnership with

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