The lobby of the Grand Hyatt Muscat had a festive atmosphere last Friday evening as a new initiative to open an art gallery amid the glittering ambience of this five-star hotel took shape. The work of a talented group of Omani and expatriate artists adorned the walls of the gallery in this inaugural venture which was a pointer to many interesting art events in the near future.
The new gallery, called Cure8 Art Gallery, was inaugurated by H H Sayyida Huriah Assad al Said in the presence of a select group of dignitaries, members of the Royal Family and the artists who participated in the inaugural group exhibition, reflecting an interesting theme – Methods of creative imagination.
The works on display were the outcome of an extensive training programme which the participating artists underwent over the past two years at the National Museum of Oman as well as via online sessions during the months of lockdown in Oman. The artists spent long hours training under Dr Nasser Palangi, an Australian-Iranian artist and art teacher, who teaches art at the Scientific College of Design in Muscat, who taught them the art of creative imagination to develop exclusive pieces that are displayed at this exhibition.
The participating artists are a mixed group of artists at different levels in their artistic careers, including Al Zahara Hussain, Abeer al Moosawi, Afrra Talal al Said, Boushra Khalfan al Shabibi, Elizabeth Davis, Iman al Maskari, Mirna Youssef, Maya Youssef, Munira al Zadjali, Raya Saleh al Maskari, Sahwa Mustahail al Mashani, Sara Abdulraeza Madan and Shalini Gupta Kumar.
“When we started out this training programme, we had a much larger participation. However, due to many reasons over the past two years because of the pandemic and the restrictions, many artists had to opt out midway. However, the final group which continued till the end have really shown great talent and explored their own creativity and imagination in a beautiful way, which you will see in the exhibition,” Dr Palangi said, expressing satisfaction that all the participating artists were able to explore varied sides to their inherent talent and find new ways of expression with creative imagination.
He further explained that every artist needs to examine and develop three powers within themselves to be able to create meaningful art. The first is called ‘khayal’ (in Arabic), meaning imagination, the second is ‘waham’ or illusion and the third is ‘ilham’ or inspiration.
“All these powers are different and present in every individual but some activate these powers, some do not. The goal of my training programme is to activate these powers in artists,” Dr Palangi said, adding that he spent nearly 30 years researching, experimenting, teaching and developing this programme with the help of Persian and other international resources, besides insights from psychology, philosophy and allied subjects.
“For this programme in Oman, we started with elements from the National Museum to make identical artworks related to Oman’s culture. We used identical patterns, motives and colours of Omani heritage to practise this method which is a manifestation of this movement,” Dr Palangi disclosed adding that the outcome of his programme with international students is to create identical, contemporary visual arts in 2D, 3D and 4D, though the exhibition in Oman includes only 2D artworks.
Collaboration is key
Sarah Ahmed Farid al Aulaqi, director of Cure8, when asked whether there was need for one more art gallery when there were already many in Muscat, said, “You can never have enough galleries and platforms for exhibiting creativity. I started this gallery three years ago in another location with the aim of fostering local talent, in art and music, and getting to know each others’ talents. We cannot thrive as a nation if we are not connected as people. So, the core of Cure8 is collaboration among artists.”
She further disclosed that this new gallery would focus on hosting more events and initiatives which would encourage and foster collaboration and education of artists so that they could develop their individual skills, learn from each other, and move forward towards collective goals for art in Oman. There are also plans to set up an Art Club wherein artists can meet regularly and discuss common matters and work towards new ventures. The gallery will also be introducing for the first time in Oman QR codes for artworks which can be scanned for details about each artist, the artwork, and the price.
Farideh Zariv, an Australian-Iranian artist and curator of the first group exhibition, said, “This exhibition was very attractive and unique for me. For almost three years, I have been following Dr Palangi’s teaching of the ‘method of creative imagination’ and how to activate people’s minds and imaginations and transfer them from objective to subjective designs. This exhibition showcases the work of 13 Omani and international artists, who are students of Dr Palangi, and which is the outcome of this course.
“Among all the works they had prepared, three are published in a book. We have chosen beautiful colours for our gallery to suit the artworks on display and there are plans to host many more group and solo exhibitions in coming months, besides organising art conferences and seminars about why and how art is collectable and commendable.”