Rabbia Sukkarieh

Introduction to Rabbia Sukkarieh

by Jay Belloli

Audio Transcript

Rabbia Sukkarieh was born in Lebanon and as a very young wife and then mother she witnessed the beginning of the immensely destructive Lebanese civil war that lasted from 1975 until 1990.

She received her bachelor in fine arts at the Lebanese university in Beirut the country capital and the main center of the conflict. To grapple with her deep emotions about loss and terror, in 1987 Sukkarieh began to create performances becoming the first performance artist in Lebanon.

She accepted a highly sought after scholarship to complete her studies in the U.S. and painfully had to leave her two sons in Lebanon. She finished undergraduate studies and received an MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Became an American citizen on the bases of her art and was then able to bring her sons to this country.

In her often monumental paintings and sculptures and in her drawings she unifies darkness and light and her agonizing memories of the war and the worlds suffering with an expression of positive energy and expansion.

Rabbia on her drawings and paintings

Audio Transcript

In 2018, I turned to numerous types of pencils to create these intricate, expressionistic, yet carefully structured drawings. These multilayered works whose pencil marks are thick enough to subtly reflect light and whose forms at times seem to tear apart almost conveying the dangers of barbwire or even cosmic explosions. The greatly organ forms may look like exploding massive corpses bulging out of ruins, yet all together work to interlock spontaneity and structure, deterioration and rebirth into one. They illicit and blend feelings of tremendous energy and dark beauty. 

Audio Transcript

The influence of my dynamically morphing life forces is also evident in these exhibited color and pencil and drawings. After long years of classical and academic training I have dedicated much of the last 8 years to developing and defining hundreds of completed works of complex illustrations and installations using different materials in my sketches and sculptures. I then do layering over and over in different and alternating techniques.

After months or sometimes years I come back to pick and transfer the material results in to paper by using pencil directly on paper or transforming them into complex color images, like the two multicolor drawings included in this exhibition. These are from large series that exemplifying my metaphoric views of forms and colors with jagged areas of red eluding to blood fields and areas of blue or gray evoking the healing aspects of water.

About the Wool Sculptures

by Rabbia Sukkarieh and Jay Belloli

Audio Transcript

I created my monumental wool sculpture for my exhibition DARK EVENT WHITE HORIZON with very definite compositional and emotional attributes than my other smaller sculptures. It is titled White Hole, after the cosmic force that would be the exact opposite: the black hole. In that it emits energy and light instead of swallowing everything into oblivion. A cosmic white hole is hypothetical while this overwhelming sculpture is very real. It is over 9 feet high, 15 feet long, and it is all black and mysterious. With its center rising several feet above the floor it seems to represent a potential primordial threat in its size and form but with its extremely seductive soft furred surface it can also be loving and even cuddly in its texture uniting polar feelings like sadness, love, fear, death, depth, life and reality.

Gold Willows, the second long and skinny sculpture at the end of the museum’s central hallway, is made with two very soft and subtle dark browns. In contradiction it is pulled stretched, split up and torn apart 13 feet in front and above our head.

Silver Willows is another similar 8 feet tall triptych sculpture in the exhibition. It’s hanging on the wall between the monumental paintings. It combines to a vertical section of different colors of natural real wool, as if composed of two strange twins. This sculpture, though soft in its materiality, has been constructed in a way that it makes it seem like space has chewed into it, leaving only loose ripped dead wool and skin.

Audio Transcript

Rabbia Sukkarieh’s inexplicably complex and subtle sculptures. She is a pioneer in using natural wool a material that recalls her grandmothers rug making in her parent’s home in Baalbek, Lebanon.

This material connects her work in the three dimensions to her native country. The wool embodies her structures with a softness, a sensitivity and at times is even comforting. One of her small wool sculptures may appear to be the classic geometric form of a cube, however, the way she handles her materials in this work implies lower organs of the human body rather than geometry.

Other of her small wool sculptures are much more organic in shape; two of them were incredibly elaborate and technically time consuming for Sukkarieh to create. Weaving each few hairs at a time and mixing two colors of natural brown wool in each to create ravishingly textured sculptures. These both contain gaping holes lined in black or very dark blue that appear unsettling or even threatening.

A somewhat larger organically shaped brown wool sculpture recalls the packs that are carried by the thousands of refugees that have been displaced over the decades in her native country of Lebanon.

About the Oil Paintings

Audio Transcript

Amazingly the variety of hues in Rabbia Sukkarieh’s current oil paintings are created from only two healing oil paint colors, red and yellow, which she interweaves with black and white, to emphasize the contrast between ferocity and positive energy on her canvases.

Her masterpiece is her largest and most dynamic work Sabra 1 from 2016, which is twenty feet long and the height of an average human being. Sukkarieh built up this monumental work with multitudinous small organic areas of paint mingled together to create a loose yet dramatic central form that seems to plunge into the depths.

Another very ambitious painting, the twelve-foot-long Sabra 2 from 2017, has a thicker surface textured with smaller and more dynamic brush strokes. This painting contains extraordinarily complex shapes dominated with different hues of red to evoke flesh, blood as well as positive energy and renewal.

In 2018 she created her first of a series of shaped canvases. The vigorous cube painting which relates to a form she has also explored in the first of her new small sculptures. In this work the emotional darkness is somewhat given way to a greater sense of unsettling yet intense colorful beauty.

At a period in history in which art rarely addresses the most essential aspects of the mortal human experience: birth, life, joy, pain, death, space and time. It is very important to recognize an artist who is exploring these fundamental issues especially with works of power and subtlety; Rabbia Sukkarieh is such an artist. 

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