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Simone Fattal, Sempre il mare, uomo libero, amerai! (Free man, you’ll love the ocean endlessy!), 2023, Installation view, Thus waves come in pairs, commissioned by TBA21–Academy, Ocean Space, Venice

Simone Fattal’s multi-disciplinary practice draws on a vast range of historical, poetic, and mythological sources, treating time itself as an elastic medium in which the past and present are one. Born in Damascus in 1942, Fattal was raised in Lebanon and educated in Beirut and Paris, where she studied archaeology at the École du Louvre and philosophy at the Sorbonne. She returned to Beirut in 1969 where she began her career as an artist, exhibiting her paintings locally through the start of the Lebanese Civil War. She left the city in 1980 and resettled in Sausalito, California. There she founded the Post-Apollo Press to publish avant-garde and experimental writing from around the world. By 1988, Fattal had resumed her visual art, adding work in collage and stone to her painting practice and taking up ceramics, coaxing a near-animistic quality from the living medium of clay. As Negar Azimi has remarked, her “figures look as old as the earth and yet they breathe.” Fattal eventually returned to Paris where she still resides, working in watercolor, etching, terra-cotta, and lately in bronze, which has granted her primordial forms a new monumental scale.

Known primarily as a sculptor of archetypal figures, Fattal makes use of motifs that imply a cultural mix—from ancient Egypt to Greco-Roman lore to Sufi mysticism—that mirrors her own itinerant life, and taps into an eternal quality that unites societies and eras that are otherwise divided. “My characters continue to be the link between our contemporary situation and our history,” Fattal explains. “If they seem to have come from high antiquity, it is because this history is ours, and the link for me is essential. I am trying to position myself in this line that started with Sumer, and that is uninterrupted through today.”

Simone Fattal, Spring in Baghdad, 2019, Oil on canvas, 37 1/2 x 48 x 1 1/2 in (95 x 122 x 4.2 cm)

Simone Fattal lives and works in Paris. A new commission of her sculpture is currently on view at Ocean Space, Venice, through November 5, and a two-person exhibition with Etel Adnan is on view at KINDL, Berlin, through January 1, 2024. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Portikus, Frankfurt (2023); Fondazione Dalle Nogare, Bolzano (2022); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2021); ICA Milano, Milan (2021); Bergen Kunsthall (2020); MoMA PS1, New York (2019); Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech (2018); and Sharjah Art Foundation (2016). Significant group exhibitions include the 59th Venice Biennale, The Milk of Dreams (2022); Gropius Bau, Berlin (2022); Aïshti Foundation, Beirut (2022); 12th Berlin Biennale (2022); 16th Biennale de Lyon, France (2022); MAM - Musée d’art Moderne de Paris (2021); Punta Della Dogana, Pinault Collection, Venice (2019); New Museum, New York (2014); and Sharjah Biennial (2011).

Her work is in the collections of the Aïshti Foundation, Beirut; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris; Metropolitan Art Society, Beirut; mumok, Vienna; Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech; National Museum of Qatar, Doha; Sharjah Art Foundation; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

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