Saloua Raouda Choucair Sculpture with One Thousand Pieces

Saloua Raouda Choucair
Sculpture with One Thousand Pieces 1966–8
© Saloua Raouda Choucair Foundation

Choucair’s sculptures often resemble architectural structures, in particular those with repeated units, such as modular housing. She once said that given another life to live she would choose to be an architect and she also made ambitious, though unrealised, plans for a spiral-shaped house and a house made of wash-clean plastic materials. Choucair’s ideas – both architectural and sculptural – incorporated flexibility. She saw her modular sculptural towers as changeable structures, with the potential to be stacked in different configurations. A series of sculptures entitled Poems have parts that work together in a flexible way. Inspired by the unique stanza style of Sufi poetry, each module may stand alone as an individual or be stacked with others to be read as a whole. Choucair’s analytical processes never left anything to chance - she would repeatedly modify her designs, prototyping an idea in a variety of materials such as stone, wood, metal, plastic and fibreglass. Her series of Duals pair materials such as wood, stone and silver in intimate embraces. The carved blocks, or ‘stanzas’ of Choucair’s ‘poems’, interlock to form a comfortable whole, different from the Duals that seem to need their partner in order to be whole.

In Room 3 an extensive display of small maquettes made throughout Choucair’s career and a selection of documents and drawings reveal the artist’s impressive creative energy and her belief in the importance of art in designs for daily living. Models for sculptural water fountains, public projects and architectural structures sit alongside domestic items such as small vessels, salt and pepper sets and a ring (one of many she designed). Choucair often translated her ideas into domestic designs and saw no need to separate art and life. Her Beirutapartment is filled with glass cabinets containing many more of these small pieces from which the curators made a selection. One of Choucair’s modular paintings from the late 1940s was pierced by shards of shattered glass in the artist’s apartment during a bombing raid in the Lebanese civil war of the 1980s. The object bears witness to that history and the circumstances through which Choucair not only survived, but continued to work with energy and enthusiasm.