Chaouki Choukini

Chaouki CHOUKINI (born in 1946). By Thierry Savatier, August 2021.

Chaouki Choukini was born in Choukine (southern Lebanon) in a modest family, in 1946. After con­sid­ering med­ical studies in Egypt, he trained, thanks to a gov­ern­ment grant, at the Higher School of Fine Arts in Paris from 1967 to 1972. In 1984, he made a trip to Japan which marked him in his plastic approach, reflected in the choice of sober and refined shapes. There he met his wife’s uncle, the sculptor Fumio Otani ; he taught him the tra­di­tional tech­niques of his dis­ci­pline which enabled him, using specific tools, to obtain results very dif­ferent from those with which he had been familiar until then. He taught sculp­ture at the Lebanese University of Tripoli from 1985 to 1987, then, from 1989 to 1991, at the University of Yarmouk (Jordan). He has lived and worked in France for many years.

During his studies he dis­cov­ered his favorite mate­rials: clay, but espe­cially wood and stone. The teaching, very aca­demic at the time, should have led him to sculpt on a live model, but he was quickly drawn to abstrac­tion.

Chaouki Choukini’s sculp­tures bear wit­ness to his sin­gular aes­thetic. Abstract, they nev­er­the­less include some min­eral or bio­log­ical details, even anthro­po­mor­phic or that can be inter­preted as such (Liberté fauve). His strange formal con­struc­tions some­times seem to defy the laws of bal­ance; they pre­sent unex­pected recesses or pro­jec­tions that plunge the viewer into an imag­i­nary that is both dream­like and all the more dis­turbing as the soft­ness of the impec­cably pol­ished sur­faces con­trasts with the some­times dark char­acter of the whole (Paysage au clair de lune, 1978 ; Lieu, 1978). When we know that the artist works with wood or stone in direct carving, we mea­sure his dex­terity in playing with mate­rial / light oppo­si­tions to make the most of them.

Spirituality and meta­physics mark the plas­ticity of his works, just as humanity per­me­ates them (Little Prince. Child of Gaza, 2010). However, the artist does not refrain from paying homage to the art of his pre­de­ces­sors, some­times with a cer­tain sur­re­alist humor (Hommage à Breughel, 2001) or an attrac­tion for tragic alle­gory, like this very totemic Cheval de Guernica (wood, 2010; bronze, 2011) of which Picasso, no more than of the bull, did not reveal the secret sym­bolism, leaving the viewer his free inter­pre­ta­tion. The fig­ures of Chaouki Choukini, whether they recall land­scapes or even satel­lite views (Les Environs de Damas, 2012) in their hor­i­zon­tality or that they chal­lenge the sky in their ver­ti­cality (To Beirut, 2020), are striking with their min­i­malist aes­thetic , undoubt­edly inherited from his Japanese expe­ri­ence which came to sup­ple­ment his Eastern and Western sen­si­bil­i­ties.

Chaouki Choukini was awarded the Young Sculpture Prize in 1978, the Taylor Foundation Prize in 2010. In 2015, the Academy of Fine Arts awarded him the Pierre Gianadda Prize for Sculpture for his body of work. His work has been the sub­ject of numerous exhi­bi­tions, notably at L’IMA (1991, then "Le Corps Découverte", 2012). His works are kept in public col­lec­tions in France, Qatar, United Arab Emirates. The Institut du monde arabe now holds the largest col­lec­tion of his sculp­tures in the world, thanks to the Donation Claude and France Lemand.

Marie-Odile Briot.
Lebanese Sculptor (b. 1946, Choukine). He arrived directly from his native vil­lage to study in Paris. Since 1973, he reg­u­larly exhibits at the Young Sculpture and in var­ious Salons. Choukini carves wood and stone, par­tic­u­larly wood. He fully mas­ters his tech­nique, by playing with pol­ished and hollow areas as well as with the rhythm of empty and full spaces and by making his carving become a pen­e­tra­tion into the mate­rial through light. His sculp­tures appear weight­less and seem to be the devel­op­ment of sur­faces which only hint to the shapes of objects. Whether lute or card table, piano or weaving loom, these meta­phys­ical machines yet `soberly Baroque’ (Salah Stétié) emerge from the pri­mary light to then come back to it. One can find quotes in his sculp­ture which con­tribute to the seduc­tion of post-modern sculp­ture. If modern sculp­ture is defined by the para­dox­ical search for the imma­te­rial then its `mad­ness for light’ makes Choukini one of the sculp­tors of this cen­tury. (Dictionnaire de l’Art mod­erne et con­tem­po­rain, Ed. Hazan, Paris, 1992).
Translated from French by Valérie Hess

Salah Stétié.
This Lebanese artist arrived in France directly from his vil­lage in South Lebanon. At the time, he carved strange, imag­i­nary and soberly baroque con­struc­tions in wood. The formal evi­dence, on the bor­der­line with fan­tasy, imposed itself: these sculp­tures simul­ta­ne­ously appear as irra­tional mon­u­ments, checker­boards for games of chance, fig­ures that are inter­locked and involved with a sort of big meta­phys­ical game. Since then, Choukini has divested him­self to the advan­tage of curves and sur­face planes. He uses the mate­rial as a key­board and extracts from it pow­erful and del­i­cate formal com­po­si­tions on which are dis­played a fig­ural sug­ges­tion, almost at the second degree. The word ‘key­board’ is even more so appro­priate here as it also trans­lates the sought after and achieved effect, that of music, which is simple and pure sim­ilar to a melody, yet some­times more com­plex and almost like an orchestra. The mute music pre­sent in Choukini’s sculp­tures is a chal­lenge to the absurd canon that fatally shoots here and there to kill, without suc­ceeding, Lebanon’s soul and body, which stands like a strong and tender moun­tain, just like the sculp­tures and sculptor I have here men­tioned.
After forty years of career as a sculptor, Chaouki Choukini has always remained true to him­self. This man who came from Lebanon, a country of rocks and sun, always pays close atten­tion to the sin­cerity of objects and shapes, some­times giving pri­ority to the music of the mate­rial, other times to objec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion. This inge­nious bal­ance makes each and every one of Choukini’s cre­ations quake with emo­tion. Choukini’s sculp­ture reveals the poetic, yet often so tragic, strangeness of our con­di­tion.
Translated from French by Valérie Hess

Public Collections:

- National Gallery of Jordan, Amman.
- Institut du monde arabe, Paris.
- Donation Claude & France Lemand 2018, Museum, Institut du monde arabe, Paris.
- FNAC, France.
- FDAC, Val de Marne, France.
- The city of La Verrière, Yvelines, France.
- Mathaf. Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar.

Copyright © Galerie Claude Lemand 2012.

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