Saloua Raouda Choucair
The day Saloua
Raouda Choucair started to draw; she was already involved in sculpture.
She was born in Beirut in 1916. Since childhood she has manifested
the same interest for art that she has shown in science throughout
her primary, secondary and university education. Saloua Raouda Choucair
began her painting career in the studios of Mustafa Farroukh (1935)
and Omar Onsi (1942). Between 1945 and 1947, she studied at AUB
(Philosophy). In 1946, she was in charge of artistic activities
at the Arabic Cultural Club in Beirut. In 1948, she went to Paris
and studied sculpture, lithography and fresco techniques at the
Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts with Saupique.
She also attended the Academia de la Grande Chaumière. While
in Paris, Choucair visited the studios of Fernand Leger, Hadju,
Martin and l'Atelier de l'Art abstrait of Jean Deswane and Edgar
Pillet, all of whom were to have an important influence on her work.
of paintings in Paris in 1951 constituted the output of this period.
Some critics have said that her painting is reminiscent of a sculptor’s
production and that her art would shatter the walls of an exhibition
hall. This type of painting does indeed require a huge space. The
critics also point out that Saloua Raouda does not accept teaching
with servility but she adapts it to the needs of her temperament.
They add that with time she will surely acquire the flexibility
that she refuses with youthful determination but not without pride.
In 1962 sculpture became her main preoccupation and through it she
explores the various genres of modern art.
Composition with Arches on Red, Gouache on Paper,
31 x 47 cm (1962 - 65)
in many collective exhibitions in Lebanon, Paris, Belgrade, Rome,
Brazil, Brussels, Baghdad and Tunis. From 1935 to 1945, her work
appeared in the Realistic Art exhibitions of AUB. It also featured
in the Spring collective exhibitions sponsored by the Lebanese Ministry
of Tourism and Education, in the Salons of Sursock Museum (1961,
1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1974, 1982 and 1984), and, since 1971,
in the yearly Salon de Mai exhibitions in Paris. In 1950, she was
one of the first Arab artists to participate in the Salon des Réalités
Nouvelles in Paris.
She has also
had many one-woman shows including ones at the Arabic Cultural Centre,
Beirut (1947); Gallery Colette Allendy, Paris (1951); Ecole Supérieure
des Lettres, Beirut (1952); UNESCO, Beirut (1962); Gallery Contact,
Beirut (1977) and at Gallery Mountada, Beirut (1988). In 1974, the
Lebanese Artists Association sponsored an honorary retrospective
exhibition of her work at the National Council of Tourism in Beirut.
Choucair has been awarded many prizes over the years including the
Palace of Justice award, Beirut (1965), several awards from the
Sursock Museum: the Prize for Sculpture (1965-66), Third Prize for
Sculpture (1966-67), First Prize for Sculpture (1967-68), and Second
Prize for Sculpture (1968); the National Council for Tourism Award,
Beirut (1966), the Alexandria Biennale Award (1968). In 1972, she
won an appreciation award from the Ministry of National Education
in Lebanon. In 1985, she won an appreciation prize from the General
Union of Arab Painters. In 1988, she was awarded a medal by the
art is the opposite of facile. Her paintings display an architectural
structure. Her sculptures reveal a futuristic architecture which
changes in space and time to the extent that the characteristics
of traditional architecture are obliterated. Indeed the forms of
Saloua Raouda’s sculptures always create a certain surprise,
since she utilizes different kinds of artificial material. This
means that her art is always ready to soar towards new dimensions
of scientific investigation.
Her works have
no difficulty finding their way to the West.
Rectangular form module 1950, 55 x 66 cm, Private Collection
Fani, Dictionnaire de la peinture au Liban, Editions de
English and French:
Choucair se lance dans la peinture en se joignant, d'abord, aux
ateliers de Farroukh et de Onsi. Lorsqu'en 1947, elle exposa pour
la première fois ses oeuvres, elle ignorait qu'elle était
peintre d'avant-garde et faisait de l'abstrait. Depuis, elle a beaucoup
voyagé, poursuivi ses études artistiques à
Paris et aux Etats-Unis, organisé diverses expositions au
Liban et à l'étranger, et obtenu plusieurs prix. Elle
a finalement trouvé sa voie dans la sculpture, la manière
la plus efficace, lui permettant de mieux s'exprimer.
Choucair, ne recule devant aucune technique ou matériau;
le bois, la pierre, le plexiglas, les fils de nylon ou métalliques,
l'email, l'or, ne lui sont point étrangers. Elle recherche
la vibration des formes avec une liberté totale d'expression.
Ses "poèmes" sont des éléments modulaires
qui peuvent être conjugués différemment entre
eux. Chacun est en lui-même une sculpture, leur superposition,
leur emboîtement en sont une autre. Cette multiplicité
des possibilités d'emploi permet l'intervention et la participation
du public. Ses combinaisons rayonnantes exécutées
à l'aide de fils métalliques ou en nylon forment un
espace aéré où la notion du vide dans la sculpture
volontairement géométrique, inspirée de la
philosophie de l'Islam, est une recherche de l'originel, du pur,
du noyau, de l'Absolu... Il s'agit d'un art constructif où
la couleur et la forme sont indissolublement liées par leurs
qualités intrinsèques et architecturales dans une
expression idéale de rapports et de proportions.
Choucair first took up painting by joining the studios of Farroukh
and Onsi, and when she first exhibited her work in 1947 she was
unaware that she was an abstract avant-garde artist. Since then
she has traveled widely, continuing her art studies in Paris and
the United States, holding a number of exhibitions in Lebanon and
abroad, and obtaining several prizes, She has finally found her
true vocation in sculpture, for her the most efficient medium permitting
a maximum of self-expression.
Choucair has no fear of experiment either in technique or in material
and has worked in wood, stone, and plexiglas, with nylon or metallic
thread, with enamel and with gold. She seeks vibration of form in
total freedom of expression. Her "poems" are modular elements
which can be fitted together in different ways one with another;
each one is a sculpture in itself yet their mutual juxtaposition
interlocks to form a third. These multiple possibilities of interaction
enable the public to be brought into active participation. Her radiant
constructions worked in metal or nylon thread form an airy space
where the idea of the void in sculpture becomes essential.
the philosophy of Islam, this deliberately geometric abstraction
is a search for all that is pure, original, the central core, the
Absolute. It is a constructive art where color and form are indissolubly
bound together by their intrinsic architectural qualities to become
an ideal expression of relationship and proportion.
by William MATAR
was born in Beirut on 24th of June, 1916. With her, plasticity is
fundamental. There is union of the greatest suppleness and the greatest
rigidity, of geometry and of sensuality, of deep-ingrained conviction
and of soaring impetus, of obstinate certainty and of attentiveness
to every new approach.
Salwa did several realist portraits of Onsi, her master, who influenced
her to devote herself to painting from a philosophical starting-point
to take up the gauntlet thrown down by the denial of one of her
instructors of an Arab artistic identity. She took up sculpture
after a period of abstraction during the ‘fifties, in order to find
there a language both visual and tactile and a refusal to go too
far in the kind of speculation whose terms geometric abstraction
would deny, so ending discussion.
Salwa spent the years 1948 to 1951 in Paris, where she had originally
intended to go for a few months only, and returned still more convinced
of being on the right road. On her return to Beirut she continued
with work born of the esoteric shift of her convictions in the logic
of geometry. She followed the development of her sculpture according
to her tendency, adding a refinement of reality freed from folklore.
Her use of Arab motifs such as calligraphy and rigorously defined
repetitions were connected both with mathematics and with ancestral
heritage, while speculation and reason formed the background of
Raouda-Schoucair used sculpture as a material projection of her
interior world, which painting could achieve only superficially.
She revealed the influence of French culture on her work resulting
from her stay in Paris rather than of a wider modern European view.
She widened her approach to the city and to art and justified the
need for an understanding of the abstract in the Orient. She was
concerned with the Druze adaptation of culture and with the geometry
of Arab calligraphy as well as to its historical tradition. She
further considered how European abstraction could be integrated
into a different culture. After the ‘fifties, her sculpture went
ahead of her painting.
Her shows always conveyed a lesson, being intended to clarify her
work for the general public. Between 1947 and 1962 she exhibited
at the Beirut Arab Cultural Center, the Colette Allendy Gallery
in Paris, the Beirut Center of Higher Studies, and the UNESCO Palace
in Beirut. In 1974 there was a retrospective exhibition at the Beirut
National Council of Tourism.
Raouda Choucair Personified the Spirit by Helen Khal (in Arabic)
Some of the artist's artwork