From 5 to 11 February - Galerie Claude Lemand

  • CHOUKINI, To Beirut.

    To Beirut, 2020. Sculpture in bronze, 153 x 65 x 30 cm. Signed and numbered 2/7. Photo Artcurial DR.

Chaouki CHOUKINI, Li Bayrut, 2020.

By Thierry Savatier, Art his­to­rian.

At the heart of the work of the sculptor Chaouki Choukini, To Beitut (2020) is part of a sin­gu­larity born of a tragic event, the explo­sion which dev­as­tated Beirut on August 4, 2020. If the sculp­tures of the artist gen­er­ally strike by their ver­ti­cality, that of To Beirut, how­ever, is not to be con­fused with the momentum towards infinity with which Le Corbusier or Louis-Ferdinand Céline were sur­prised when dis­cov­ering the skyscrapers of New York from the ocean. Here, the formal orga­ni­za­tion seems to deeply anchor the opus in the ances­tral land, while giving to see, by the games of matter, the shapes, the solids, the recesses, the notches and the skil­fully arranged reliefs, the image of the chaos. It is not the least of the para­doxes to sug­gest solidity in col­lapse. The sober aes­thetic of the whole leads to this to a large extent.

The orig­inal sculp­ture was exe­cuted, fol­lowing the habit of Chaouki Choukini, in direct carving in wood. A less pol­ished wood than usual, how­ever, the artist having worked on mate­rial effects that could be likened to stig­mata, when he does not show strata of exposed bricks. The bronze ver­sion retains them, but the chosen patina offers an even more impla­cable work, since, under the brown layer, emerges, with mea­sured dis­cre­tion, a red layer which is rem­i­nis­cent of the blood shed by thou­sands of Lebanese.

The viewer won­ders, because this mono­lithic con­struc­tion does not seem unre­lated to the now emblem­atic grain silo in the port of Beirut, which, although located near the epi­center of the explo­sion, still erects some sec­tions of walls like a time chal­lenge. We know that the building is cre­ating a lively debate even within the State, between those who would like to destroy this embar­rassing tes­ti­mony of their care­less­ness and those who, with the fam­i­lies of the vic­tims, would like to pre­serve it in the name of the col­lec­tive memory. Whatever the fate of these ruins, the memo­rial char­acter of To Beirut will remain, both as a tribute steeped in humanity and an abstract symbol of spir­i­tu­ality.

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