– Spring 2013

A Damaged Painting, A Shard of Glass: Discovering Saloua Raouda Choucair

Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Les Peintres célèbres II (The Famous Painters II), 1948—49, gouache on paper, 25 × 36cm. Courtesy the artist and Hala Schoukair

Saloua Raouda Choucair’s studio is stacked to the ceiling with sculptures made of clay, wood, fibreglass, aluminium, brass, plastic, perspex and stone. The many three-dimensional typologies and sustained evocations of movement that she has developed since the 1940s — in bodies of works she has titled ‘trajectories’, ‘interforms’, ‘poems’, ‘odes’, ‘infinite structures’, ‘modules’, ‘sparkles’ and ‘duals’ — are all in abundance here, with examples ranging from pristinely conserved to crumbling, all jostling for space on a spread of purpose-built shelves and cabinets. For anyone with even a minute interest in her work, the place is a forest of wonders and a source of much sadness. Many of these pieces are models for larger works, most of them never realised, which have been tested out in different sizes, scales and materials — the equivalents for Choucair of a painter’s preparatory sketches. Some of them are meant to be picked up, taken apart, put back together again and turned over palm to palm as one puzzles out how they work, what they mean and why they might have benefited from being enlarged to the size of civic monuments. Only a few of them represent the full expression of what Lebanon’s most rigorous and pioneering abstract artist has been trying to do over the past seven decades.

Saloua Raouda Choucair, Poem, 1963—65, wood, 33 x 17 × 7.5cm. Courtesy the artist and Agial Art Gallery Now in her late nineties, Choucair is bedridden and frail. She is rarely seen, seldom leaves the room around the corner from her studio and stopped making art many years ago,

  1. Kirsten Scheid, Painters, Picture-Makers, and Lebanon: Ambiguous Identities in an Unsettled State, unpublished doctoral thesis, Princeton: Princeton University, 2005, p.321.

  2. I am quoting here from the English translation: Samir Sayegh, ‘Saloua Raouda Choucair: Distinctiveness of Style and Individuality of Vision’ (trans. Anna Swank), which was published on the website of the arts organisation ArteEast, 1 March 2008, available at http://www.arteeast.org/pages/artists/article/155/?artist_id=12 (last accessed on 18 November 2012). Sayegh’s piece was originally published in Arabic as ‘Tamayyuz uslub wa faruda ru’ya’, Al-Kifah al-Arabi, 31 July 1983, pp.70—71.

  3. Ibid.

  4. Ibid.