Saloua Raouda Choucair

The Poem

  • Saloua Raouda Choucair
  • The Poem
  • 1960
  • Wooden sculpture
  • 34 x 16.5 x 13 cm
  • Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah Museums Department

Between the years 1963 and 1968, Saloua Raouda Choucair produced a number of sculptural works of various materials – such as wood, brass, clay, fiberglass, or aluminum – under the series title “Poems.” Earlier, in the 1950s, her interest in organically occurring systems of proportion had already prompted her to work with modular forms in her series “Trajectory of a Line.” In the two wooden “Poems” presented, the artist’s use of wood to create irregular, interlocking shapes represents a next step in her interrogation of the elemental building blocks of natural life. Inspired by Sufi poetry, wherein each stanza can be read either independently or as part of the entire poem, Choucair meant the individual blocks of these two sculptures to be both autonomous and dependent forms. With the ability to be removed, reconfigured, and reinserted back into the larger configuration, the two sculptures engage the viewer’s sense of play and invite interaction. But like all puzzles, they are ultimately based on a complex and deceptive logic whereby structural and aesthetic integrity can only be achieved through a predetermined arrangement. Although critics have sought to consider Choucair’s work within both constructivist and minimalist paradigms, Choucair eventually came to think of her use of individual and collective modules in relation to concepts of civil unity and fracture amid the looming tensions of 1970s Lebanon, the artist’s homeland.

Tiffany Floyd

Biography of Saloua Raouda Choucair

  • Born 1916 in Beirut, Lebanon/Ottoman Empire
Saloua Raouda Choucair began her art studies in Beirut in the mid-1930s, frequenting the studio of Moustafa Farroukh. Later she trained under Omar Onsi (1901–1969) and developed an enthusiasm for Islamic art and architecture while traveling in Egypt in 1943. Her 1947 show at the Arab Cultural Gallery in Beirut was one of the first abstract exhibitions in the region. In 1948 she moved to Paris, where she took life drawing classes at the École des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts) and trained in the studio of Fernand Léger (1881–1955). In 1950 her inclination toward geometric shapes and Arabic letters led her to organize L’Atelier de l'Art Abstrait (Studio of Abstract Art) with other avant-garde artists. During this time Choucair created her first non-objective works, showing early experimentation with repeated forms. She returned to Beirut in 1951. Choucair worked in different mediums and materials but became especially noted for her wood and stone sculptures, such as her “Poems” series, realized as modular systems or forms comprised of similar units. Despite her early success in Paris, where in the early 1950s she showed in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and had a solo exhibition at Galerie Colette Allendy, Choucair’s work was not widely recognized outside Lebanon until her 2013 retrospective at Tate Modern in London.