Saloua Raouda Choucair
17 April – 17 November 2013
This is the UK’s first exhibition of the Lebanese painter and sculptor Saloua Raouda Choucair, who was a pioneering figure in the development of abstract art in the Middle East in the 20th century.
Born in Beirut in 1916, Saloua Raouda Choucair studied in Paris in the 1940s and attended Fernand Léger’s studio, where she developed her subdued palette of blues and greys. Her unusual style; a combination of Western Modernism and Islamic design, was never as well received in Lebanon as it was in Europe, being too avant-garde for the more conservative tastes of the Middle Eastern art market.
This retrospective features artworks made between the 1950s and the 1970s, including a series of geometric patterned paintings and interlocking forms in wood, aluminium and stone that resemble simple Chinese puzzles.
There is a large abstract painting called ‘Composition in Blue Module’ (1947–51), inspired by Choucair’s time as a student at Fernand Léger’s studio in Paris. The subdued palette and repeated patterns are reminiscent of early Futurists paintings.
Her ‘Infinite Structure’ of 1963-5 is a geometric stone carving formed of a series of interlocking pieces. It is a homage in part to Constantin Brâncusi’s project Endless Column, and also relates to the particular way Islamic poetry is constructed.