Saloua Raouda Choucair

Presentation

Tate Modern presented from April and until October 2013, the world’s first major museum exhibition of Lebanese artist Saloua Raouda Choucair (b. 1916). Comprising over 120 works, many of which have never been seen before and were exhibited for the first time, this exhibition brought together paintings, sculptures and other objects made by the artist over six decades, reflecting her interests in science, mathematics and Islamic art and poetry. In Choucair’s 97th year, this retrospective celebrated her extraordinary body of work and her contribution to international modernism.

Choucair is a pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East and is now becoming recognised as an important figure in the history of global modernism. A rare female voice in the Beirut art scene from the 1940s onwards, her work combines elements of western abstraction with Islamic aesthetics. It is characterised by an experimental approach to materials alongside an elegant use of modular forms, lines and curves drawn from the traditions of Islamic design.

The exhibition focused on Choucair’s sculptures from the 1950s to the 1980s, created in wood, metal, stone and fibreglass, as well as key examples of her early paintings such as Self-Portrait 1943 and Paris-Beirut 1948. The artist often created works in discrete series, a number of which were included in the exhibition. These included her ‘interforms’, such as Sculpture with One Thousand Pieces 1966-1968, which comprise of seemingly simple cubes or blocks which house intricately carved and highly complex internal forms.

Works known as ‘duals,’ consisting of two carefully interlocking parts, and a selection of her modular ‘poems’ series were also on display. These works are made from individual pieces that stack together in a flexible way, much like the stanzas of Arabic poetry. Choucair thought of many of her works as being in constant flux: structures to be altered by the viewer, the elements or the artist’s own additions and subtractions over time. Like a Mobius strip her work is endlessly various, returning to specific themes but never with the same attributes or form.

The Curators
The exhibition was curated at Tate Modern by Jessica Morgan, The Daskalopoulos Curator, International Art, and Ann Coxon, Assistant Curator, who describe Choucair as ‘a pioneer of abstract art in the Middle East,’ adding that she is now ‘becoming recognised as an important figure in the history of global modernism.’

Biography
Born in Beirut in 1916, Saloua Raouda Choucair began painting under the tutelage of leading Lebanese landscape artists Mustafa Farroukh and Omar Onsi. She studied at the American University in Beirut and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and attended the studio of Fernand Léger in the late 1940s.
After a period in the United States, she returned to live and work in her homeland in 1955.
Throughout the 1980s and 90s Choucair received increasing recognition and awards for her work in Lebanon, including a number of commissions for public sculpture in Beirut. Her work has been shown at UNESCO Palace in Beirut, the Beirut Exhibition Centre and most recently in a display of newly acquired works at Tate Modern.


(Courtesy of Tate Modern)
 

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