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Art in the time of lockdown

7 Apr 2020

Omani artists find inspiration and shoulder their responsibility towards the community to deliver a message 

These times of social distancing and isolation can be stifling, yet some artists are finding inspiration in these circumstances. These creative people don’t need to look too hard for inspiration, putting paint on canvas to interpret the COVID-19 crisis in their own way.  

The starkness and simplicity in Saleem Sakhi’s art is compelling. His regular style is distinct, rendered in broad strokes in striking colour gradient, overlaid with motifs or etchings. Understated yet loud and clear in their message, Sakhi’s compositions are generally minimalistic.

Sakhi speaks through the wide blank spaces on his canvas. A reflection of the times we live in? The uncanny similarity figuratively and otherwise to the current times is hard to miss. A cartoonist, graphics designer, installation artists and sculptor, Sakhi has made posters and caricatures inspired by the situation rising out of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the posters shows Muttrah’s iconic gate taking on the form of a padlock. “I’m from Muttrah. I spent my childhood there. Our father’s house still is there,” he said. 

“These are difficult times. I tried to do something creative about our struggle using our own colours, language, culture… Art is a powerful medium. It summarises a message in just one image – Muttrah is in lockdown,” he said, explaining the poster.

Another artist who has found inspiration in this situation is Enaam Ahmed. Her work titled Steadfast despite the ordeal is an acrylic on canvas, 40cm x 40cm. Her characteristic style involves strokes of fluorescent colours – flashy pinks, shocking orange, striking blues, fiery reds – with streaks of charcoal for effect set in pastel backgrounds.

These challenging times, however, didn’t cramp Enaam’s style. Steadfast despite the ordeal bares her distinct style – rich in colour and form. A graduate in interior design who works in the Diwan of Royal Court’s Institute for Capability Development, she likens her art to expressionism and has been feted for her efforts to preserve Omani culture.

She described ‘Steadfast despite the ordeal’ as a portrait of a woman “who can be Omani or any other nationality because COVID-19 is a global pandemic; we are all in this together.”

For calligraphist Saleh al Shukairi, the warriors at the battlefront of this worldwide crisis are an inspiration. Shukairi – who was among 20 distinguished artists from around the world in March 2019 to commemorate the Czech Republic’s 30 Years of Freedom celebrations in Prague – has created a piece 29.7cm x 42.0cm in glossy paper, using 7mm bamboo pens and ink. It is his way of saying, “Thank you to all medical personnel for all your efforts given to the world.”

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