Summary

The Screw consists of three carved wooden elements which fit together to make the piece. The elements are a semi-circular form, a head-like oval and a central screw shape that ‘fixes’ the three elements together. Each piece is carved in wood of a different colour. Unlike some earlier works where separate elements can be recombined, such as Poem 1963–5 (Tate T13278), The Screw can only be configured one way. With its singular form that is comprised of separate interlocking parts, the work can be read as a metaphor for human relationships and sexuality, as well as for the Sufist and Islamic notion of oneness. Like many of Choucair’s works, each separate part contributes to the whole while having its own unique identity. The artist has related this to Arabic poetry, where each stanza can stand alone while being part of a bigger whole.

Choucair studied painting under the tutelage of leading Lebanese landscape artists Mustafa Farroukh and Omar Onsi. She attended the American University in Beirut before going to Paris in 1948, where she studied at the École des Beaux-Arts and spent time in the studio of Fernand Léger (1881–1955). On her return to Beirut in the early 1950s, she began to make sculptures. Her appreciation of western abstraction was coloured by her study of Islamic aesthetics and her modular sculpture and abstract paintings are characterised by a combination of the curve and the straight line, two basic elements of Islamic design.

Further reading
Joseph Tarrab, Hala Schoukair, Helen Kahl, Saloua Raouda Choucair: Her Life and Work, Beirut 2002.

Jessica Morgan
August 2010