Expressions of Oman, the exhibition currently on display at Bait Muzna gallery, Muscat, features the works of four known Omani artists, Tahira Fida, Ahmad al Busaidi, AbdulNasser Al Saigh, and Mazen al Maamari.

The exhibition evidently strives to articulate an evolving and nonetheless specifically Omani artistic language through the medium of the artists and their creations.

Incorporating influences of Arab poetry, hieroglyphs, and the sights and character of the seaside port, Muttrah, where she grew up, Tahira Fida’s mixed media works ostensibly depict her own imaginary universe. Yet, the arrangements of squares and rectangles omnipresent through the majority of her works actually refer to the pixels of a digital image, innovatively marrying traditional visual art to its modern digital avatar. The layering, texturing, relief-work, and graduated color palette in the works such as in the evocatively titled, Memories from Rainy Days nevertheless grant admission into a world that is simultaneously familiar and yet mysterious.

Award-winning Ahmad al Busaidi’s black and white photographic portraits consist largely of studies of Omani women. The series entitled, Covered, consisting of portraits of women’s entirely veiled, and therefore concealed, faces especially make for compelling viewing. The images radiate both power and solidity of presence from those being photographed. The works therefore invite the viewer to both consider the portraits’ surface aesthetics as well as the crucial subtext of the photographer’s personal meditations and commentary upon the veil.

Representing modern and contemporary Omani calligraphy, the feted calligrapher, AbdulNasser al Saigh’s exquisitely rendered calligraphic works in water-color demonstrate mastery of the employed technique as well as how it invests the representation of the calligraphy with a delicate, fluid beauty. In certain works, the calligraphy’s controlled appearance and accompanying meticulously depicted arabesque details are in studied contrast to the arbitrary patterns that water etches into color, the latter’s randomness further accentuating the calligraphy’s ordered power.

Mazen al Maamari’s boldly hued and emblazoned mixed media paintings leap out towards the viewer’s gaze with their fiery undertones. In the larger canvases, however, the obvious, dramatic brush-strokes and solid blocks of color are juxtaposed with a panel of minute, detailed surface metallic doodling and scribbling. The sense of fire and heat that emanates from the paintings conjures up a crucible effect, as if the works are embodying the baking of ideas, essentially focusing upon their process of metamorphosis.

Perhaps, the transformative nature of ideas as depicted in Al Maamari’s work is a metaphor for the developments occurring within the Omani art scene and the exhibition being an apt vehicle to showcase them. The representation and interpretation of different art forms such as photography or calligraphy in Expressions of Oman thus ably reflect the various vibrant Omani artistic voices constituting the contemporary Omani art world.

Expressions of Oman is now exhibiting at Bait Muzna Gallery, Muscat until 12th May, 2011.

–    Priyanka Sacheti



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