Art Chronicles: Saloua Raouda Choucair

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

Art Chronicles: Migrations

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The newish show at Tate Britain – Migrations: Journeys into British Art – largely drawn from the Tate’s own holdings, sets out to register the impact of succeeding generations of immigrants on British art from the 17th century onwards, and, in so doing, presents a broader version of same gallery’s larger show detailing the influence of Picasso on Modern British Art.

Of necessity, it’s something of a whistle-stop tour – van Dyck & portraiture, Italian Neoclassicism, Jewish Artists & Refugees from Nazi Europe up to  the present day. These are really pointers, and pointers only, most sections capable of shouldering a show on their own accord, but, taken together, they make for a diverting hour or so, one which, here and there, demands greater attention.

The Mud Bath 1914 by David Bomberg 1890-1957

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There are some fine, almost stunning, pieces here: David Bomberg’s The Mud Bath placed alongside the lesser-known Jews at Prayer by Jacob Kramer, both pieces near-perfect meldings of traditional Jewish culture with the tenets of modernity; Kurt Schwitters’ Picture of Spatial Growth – Picture of Two Small Dogs, a three-dimensional collage built from the collected ephemera of his enforced travels; Mona Hatoum’s video installation, Measures of Distance, made during the Lebanese civil war and based around intimate but interrupted conversations between the London-based artist and her Lebanese-Palestinian mother in Beirut; the Black Audio Film Collective’s 1986 film, Handsworth Songs, its images of urban rioting in Birmingham and London, the latter including the funeral of Cynthia Jarrett, which led to rioting on the Broadwater Estate in Tottenham and the consequent death of PC Keith Blakelock, sadly pertinent today.

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