Marie Khouri
Surfacing
January 13 - Feb 6, 2009 - Opening reception: Thursday Jan 15, 6:30 - 8:30 pm


"A series of colourful bronze vessels sit before me on a long work bench, they balance on their spherical undersides rupturing open like massive oysters, flowers or underwater life forms, providing the viewer with an experiential view of their internal spaces. Their interiors appear to harbour a safe haven, protected by outer shells eroded with scars and a timeless patina. These are the sculptural works of Marie Khouri, a Vancouver artist who identifies with her multi-cultural ancestry and brings the varied geography of her life experience to the foundry process. While these pieces appear to reference artists as diverse as Georgia O'Keefe, Dale Chihuly, Judy Chicago and Nancy Graves, they are personal testimonials and commemorations to the horror of war Khouri experienced in the Middle East.

Khouri is fluent in the languages of her ancestry; French, English, Arabic, Italian and Spanish. She speaks of a complex family history that suffered turmoil and constant relocation. In 1975 at the age of 15 her father was kidnapped and assassinated in Lebanon, her family then decided to leave war-torn Beruit for Paris. There her new husband, who also narrowly escaped assassination, went on to develop software for international financial markets that proved indispensable for the French Stock Exchange. During a sabbatical from her work in finance, Khouri studied drawing and sculpture at the Ecole Louvre in Paris where a continuity of traditions and modernist art styles are maintained. It was also at the Louvre that she carved her first stone and began working in clay. In 2005 Khouri decided to move to Vancouver where she established a base for her sculpture practice. She established a new home and studio in Kerrisdale, she then joined the Art Institute at Capilano University, a professional development program for established artists to serve as mentors to less experienced students. The social and critical interaction in the art program was stimulating, but Khouri usually worked independently in the wax room of the art foundry where she was finally able to reflect on her past; giving life-affirming form to her traumatic experiences. She began a series of bronze shadows that appeared to combine the architecture of the ancient fortress with the body of the refugee. Khouri's shadows appear to be moving through "a new frontier in an ancient land" as she describes it, searching for a home but belonging nowhere. These pieces are expressions of her experience and a personal therapy for the physiological wounds of her youth that hadn't healed. She stated; "Sculpting became a means of expression for me, like a language, a way of saying all the secret and vulnerable feelings and experiences that I was unable to express".

Khouri shadows then evolved away from the human figure towards a series of large abstract vessels. Her wax forms became so large they could no longer support themselves without external support, but she needed to constantly rotate her pieces as she sculpted them. She stated that her work "is alive and organic as in the most elemental sense, it mimics the natural process of growth". Khouri developed an unconventional method of supporting her pieces by impregnating layers of fiberglass into the wax walls of her sculpture. Once moulded, the wax is burned out and the molten bronze fills the mould and envelops any fiberglass that remains. This method created a tensile and self-supporting structure allowing her to balance her waxes the way the bronzes would."

George Rammell
Sculpture Department, Capilano University