Having arrived in Oman five years ago as a visitor, German artist, Antje Manser fell in love with the country and its people and now divides her year between Oman and Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA. Her most recent exhibition at Bait al Baranda, a leading Muscat museum and art institution, continues to tap into her imagination, her works taking the viewer on a voyage into the realms of her mind while paying homage to the beauty of Oman.

Her work endorses one of her favorite quotes from the artist, Agnes Martin: Beauty is the mystery of life, Consistent with that belief, in a sense, Antje‚ own work invites the viewer to decode the many physical and abstract layers it contains; each viewing means a new layer comes forth, subsequently bringing in a fresh perspective. Apart from the visual implications of her work being layered, Antje also believes in her paintings being a tactile experience what with her work being greatly textured; the surface of her paintings contain pieces of handmade Japanese paper collaged onto it or gleam with glitter, evoking sensations of the light in Oman that she has found herself drawn to.

My work is inspired by Sufi philosophy, music, nature, light, movement, and beauty, she says.  She believes that she is literally stepping into her imagination through the medium of her work and testifies to the power of imagination in eponymously named works. One of her works in her recent exhibition was of Al Hambra in Spain and she recounts her first encounter with the beauty of Moorish architecture many years ago. immediately developed an intimate bond with the place, she remarks, which has vivified into a series that she has done on Al Hambra. I also encountered the beautiful gardens there, she adds.

Antje has a strong connection with the beauty of a garden space and it is unsurprising that she chooses to use enchanted gardens as a metaphor for her works when inviting viewers to explore them. I am very inspired by Persian and Indian miniature paintings and the lovely gardens contained within them; it's just amazing how the artists so meticulously represent the plants, right down to the detailed leaves, she adds. She also derives influences from the sleek minimalism of Japanese gardens, commenting that she subscribes to minimalism in her own work as well. She has a special appreciation for trees as typified by one of her works, The Magic Tree.

Greatly supporting the idea of incorporating emerging new digital technologies into her work, she rejects the notion that paintings are only a sum total of the canvas, paints, and the palette; she delights in the opportunities that digital art affords, saying that the mouse has become her brush. She embraces myriad sources of inspiration, be it visiting hardware stores to source novel material for her work or planning to use as canvas beautiful bolts of silk that she recently purchased during a visit to South India.

Antje  envisages beauty wherever she looks and translates it into her work, using motifs such as gardens, trees, and the Omani landscapes, to name a few, as the alphabets of her unique visual language.

– Priyanka Sacheti

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