Saloua Raouda Choucair

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Although recognised in Lebanon today, this is the first major international showing of paintings and sculpture by the 97-year-old Choucair. She was one of the first to interpret Arabic aesthetics through the medium of Western abstraction as strands of modernism developed post-war.

Comprising 120 works, many of which have never been seen before, this exhibition brings together paintings and sculpture made by the artist over six decades.

Two experiences seem to have had a great influence on Choucair's work. The first was a visit to Egypt in 1943 where she developed a profound love of Islamic design and architecture. The second was a few years in France in the 1940s, where she embraced modernism and joined the studio of the great painter Fernand Leger before returning to Beirut. She also drew influence from the celebrated modernist architect Corbusier.

These eastern and western styles are linked by a purity and geometry. Choucair has explored these with great determination in spite of enormous struggle as both a female artist and one working amid political strife.

The exhibition includes a painting marked with holes from a bomb blast that happened during the 1980 civil war and left her husband deaf. But Choucair continued to work with energy and enthusiasm despite the destruction of many of her public art works in Beirut and the closures of galleries that represented her work.

In spite of experiencing these traumas, there is a vein of humour running through this show. In the opening galleries her series of paintings "Les Peintres Celebres" is a response to Leger's work and shows three naked women in a harem drinking tea, conversing and reading art history books while confidently looking out.

"Chores", a cubist painting and commenting on domestic life, shows a bottle washer's head inside the wine glass she is cleaning. The major work however, in the opening galleries is a small exquisite painting called "Paris-Beirut" showing an Islamic star, Cleopatra's needle, the colours of the desert and the Arc de Triumphe - all in perfectly balanced form. This is a perfect example of the artist looking both east and west in her influences.

Other paintings show Choucair's use of the two basic elements of Islamic design, the straight line and the curve. In the 1950s she focused increasingly on sculpture to explore form and structure in three dimensions. These include her "poems", a series of sculptures that have parts that work together flexibly and are inspired by Sufi poetry in which each stanza can be standalone or read with others.

There is also a cabinet full of small drawings and maquettes which show Choucair's interest in design for daily living. She translated her ideas into domestic designs and saw no need to separate art from everyday life.

Choucair has never been recognised internationally and has often been misunderstood. This show - the first of a series of Tate Modern exhibitions that introduce lesser known Arab and African artists - goes some way toward addressing this.

Saloua Raouda Choucair is at the Tate Modern, London, until 20 October