Barely known in this country, little known one suspects outside her native Lebanon, the artist Salouda Raouda Choucair is the subject of a new exhibition at Tate Modern, a small – just four rooms – but altogether delightful show which concentrates on her abstract paintings – mostly gouache on paper – and the wood or stone sculptures she concentrated on making from the mid-1950s onwards. Now in her nineties, but no longer making new work, this is Choucair’s first major retrospective in this country and may, indeed, be one of very few outside Lebanon itself.
Influenced both by western modernism – between 1948 and 1952 she was in Paris, where she worked in Leger’s studio and from where she travelled to Marseilles to visit a modernist housing project designed by Le Corbusier – and, predominantly, by the curve and line of much Islamic art, Choucair’s abstract paintings are quite beautiful, their geometric patterns lit up and softened by an exquisite use of colour. There are similarities, in a number of the pieces, to the work being produced by Ben Nicholson at a similar time, and one work in particular is so reminiscent of a David Bomberg that I had to look twice to make sure I hadn’t been confused.
The sculptures, many of them very much architecturally based, are impressive for the use of basic materials – several of the wooden pieces, in particular, just cry out to be touched – and the intricacies of their sequential form.
All in all, it’s a very pleasing and welcome show and thanks are due to Tate for introduced me to the work of an artist of whom I’d previously been ignorant.