From “Simone Fattal, Ceramic Sculptor” by Etel Adnan
Looking one day, at the way Simone Fattal was holding in her hands eggplants that she had just bought, I felt that she had a special rapport to these objects—to which one pays no attention—and I thought that such a suitability between her hands and these eggplants could certainly suggest that she had an attraction to, an affinity with forms and therefore with sculpture.
She was then a painter, living in Lebanon. But a few years later, the civil war in Lebanon led her to leave for California. She had to leave her Beirut studio with great sorrow. Once settled in the outskirts of San Francisco, she heard about a college with a good sculpture department. She enrolled. We should remember here that the American way of teaching is particularly open. The teacher stimulates more than he dictates or imposes a particular style, or a method. Thus at the beginning of course, the teacher asked the students to choose a piece among many different materials. Simone chose a big alabaster stone, although he insisted on a smaller one for a first try. She liked this translucent rock very much. In a quick glance she assessed the stone’s possibilities. She worked on it without forcing it, and the result was surprisingly right and beautiful. The pink alabaster, luminous, almost sensual, had become the bust of a statue one would have found on an archeological site, only this time the archeology was of a contemporary site. It was as if the war, which was still ravaging the Lebanon thousands of miles away, was fusing with this unique piece. It was an enchantment for the eye and the mind. Besides, the artist has said herself that when looking at the stone she had made that link.
The year after, Simone Fattal enrolled at the Art Institute of San Francisco. This institute is one of the three or four more prestigious art schools in the U.S. It’s there that celebrities such as Jackson Pollock, Ansel Adams, Diego Riveira, Diebenkorn and others have taught during the golden years when American art dominated the art world.
She realized immediately that among all the disciplines taught at the Art Institute ceramics was the one which appealed to her the most. Clay is probably the first material that man privileged for his creations. It is not surprising that many ancient cultures believed that man had been made by a god or by God from clay. Clay is pure earth, albeit particular, varied and unique, soft and resistant, fragile and yet able to survive centuries, as good for the making of objects of everyday use as for the conceptual art works. Ceramics is the domain of infinite knowledge. In countries like Japan, China and Korea, ceramics reach prices that are given in the West only to great paintings. Now even in the West things are changing, and many ceramic pieces are more and more appreciated, on equal footing with works in bronze, iron, or steel.
For the amateurs, ceramics touch the sensibility because of the variety of colors which are natural to clay, and that no painting can equal. More over, the more one thinks about it, the more this material, once fired, represents an extraordinary dilemma. It’s an art of fire and malleability which transforms these two elements into objects that are cold, fixed in their form for an infinite time. When Simone Fattal faced her first chunk of clay she did not hesitate. Her fingers, i.e. the deepest forces of her mind, made out of this muddy mass a person standing. It was an act of creation. She found her world immediately. She re-created in one stroke the first man of prehistoric times, and she created him standing. She created not an object, but a surge, a movement, an essential movement, the one which separates the human species from the animal world, that is, at the same time, akin to him.
She continued and still continues to make standing figures. They come as if naturally out of her hands. It is as if they are asking to be born out of their clay. It is as if they have always been there and that their creation is their liberation. They have the breath of life. They don’t project rigidity but firmness. They are not anonymous. They are men or women, heroes of the past or mythic characters. We don’t see them. We recognize them. They stand at the threshold of what makes the essential of their being. They are neither abstract nor realistic, but come from very far carrying in them the matter with which they were born. They haunt us, because we recognize them although we have never seen them before.
Artists of the Gallery
Shirin Abu Shaqra
SADIK KWAISH ALFRAJI
Samia Osseiran Jumblatt
Catharina van Eetvelde