Sa'ad Choeb: Don Bachardy Fellowship 2022

Feb. 14, 2023

See the work of Syrian artist Sa'ad Choeb in his studio show, Any Resemblance to Reality is Purely Coincidental at Space Studios, Hackney.

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Dissolution, soft pastels and oil pastels on paper, 42 x 83 cm

Sa’ad Choeb is the 2022 recipient of the Don Bachardy Fellowship. The fellowship invites a gifted and dedicated postgraduate artist from outside the United Kingdom to study at the Royal Drawing School and to experience the cultural life of London. The fellowship is named after the Californian portrait painter, Don Bachardy (b. 1934), who studied at the Slade in 1961, and went on to draw and paint over 10,000 portraits from life. 


Sa’ad is a visual artist from Syria, whose practise has focussed on painting and drawing for over 14 years. Having studied Fine Art at Damascus University in Syria for two years, he moved to Lebanon in 2016 to pursue a BA in Politics and Philosophy at the American University of Beirut on a full scholarship. His experience of living in both Syria and Lebanon made the question of politics inseparable from his perception and conception of artistic production. He recently published a chapter, From Syria to Lebanon: We Felt Again that Everything is New, reflecting on the experience of revolution in both countries as part of an anthology - The Lebanon Uprising of  2019: Voices from the Revolution, published by I.B Tauris and Bloomsbury. 

Sa’ad applied for the Fellowship after completing a one-year artist residency in Ashkal Alwan Center in Lebanon. His focus there was on a long-term painting project that centralises photographs of intense events and memories as the primary resources in order to create a visual form of disaster. The opportunity for intensive observational drawing at the Royal Drawing School in London seemed an ideal contrast, necessary for grounding and discovering the possibilities of the visual form that he has been exploring.

He says of his time at the School - 

“The experience of studying at the Royal Drawing School has been foundational and liberating for my practise. It has validated my ability to see problems through an observational lens, to form instant relations to empiric subject matter and to see drawing as an end in itself, rather than simply a means to accumulating references for future paintings. I found that the themes of love, roughness, melancholia, recognition and validation were some of the generous offerings of winter in London to situate my work in this context.”

Sa'ad Choeb, A Pattern is a Model too

A Pattern is a Model Too, Pen, Charcoal and Soft Pastel on Paper, 59 x 59 cm

Works on display in his studio show includes a six metre triptych and more than 50 drawings and other site specific work that has been produced during the Fellowship. The work investigates how rupture in sequence and continuation can affect visual experience, drawing inspiration from Eadweard Muybridge’s photographic studies of motion, Picasso’s Guernica and Francis Bacon’s use of space in his figurative paintings. The effect is a vision of a world endlessly breaking apart and then reassembling as hybrid realities, never reassuringly complete nor without hope or reformulation. 


The triptych form in Sa’ad’s work does not only manifest in the formality of three panels that are present in many of his works, but breaking the picture plane through rotational re-workings as a way of seeing even when three separate panels are not present. This process has produced a subjective cubistic world, rich in suggestive temporal shifts and ruptures to the picture plane and perspectives.  In many of Sa'ad's works, an object will become another iteration of itself, something like observing the moving clouds or unfolding a map. As William Kentridge remarked -  the line in drawing takes you for a walk.

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Lost Item, soft pastel on paper, 50 x 80 cm

After completing the fellowship, Sa’ad says he plans to join art collectives, participate in residencies, and to carry on with his three triptych drawings project in addition to continuing his previous painting project, while leaving a fluid margin to explore other mediums and forms of expression.     

The Don Bachardy Fellowship is sponsored by The Christopher Isherwood Foundation. 

Don Bachardy

Follow @saadchoeb

Any Resemblance to Reality is Purely Coincidental by Sa’ad Choeb

Space Studios, 19 Warburton Rd, Hackney, E8 3RH, 23 - 26 February 2023

Private View: 23 February 2023, 5 - 9pm

Opening hours: Friday - Sunday, 11am - 8pm

By appointment: email