The universe is boundless and expansive. To think its vastness is to detect the limits of knowledge. Or, such is the maxim with which Hala Schoukair paints her worlds: to venture into the infinite one should find the universe in the smallest of particles.
Her paintings locate entire ecosystems in the heart of an artichoke, a grain of salt, a pine seed. In between the smallness of her subject and the magnitude of its detail, a parallel universe is carved out. Somewhere neither worldly nor transcendent, fields of color draw the viewer into a frenetic space of encounter.
Schoukair is compelled by small things, and also knows herself to be small in the world. Like an ant, the marvel of her diminutiveness in relation to the world lies in the immensity of her labor.
In her work, Schoukair invites the viewer to participate in her process through the act of looking closely – through tracing with one’s eyes the tautness of lines and color and their gradual ease. Her older works on paper have inspired more intimate encounters. Clearing entry for one onlooker at a time, they give in to tremulous chance meetings like those of first-time lovers.
Schoukair’s most recent paintings are ambitious, detail-oriented works of much larger scale than those prior. They follow the same principles as her works on paper, but they impart worlds which can be spotted from a distance. Rather than open to a glimpse of the individual viewer, they are intended for an audience.
Hala Schoukair (b. 1957) lives in New York City. Having grown up in Beirut, she went on to receive a master’s degree in Cinematographic Studies from the Sorbonne University, Paris in 1981. She lived in Beirut from 1983-1987, where she worked in film production and window dressing.