The celebration of ‘art at its best’ began as soon as H H Sayyida Alia bint Thuwaini al Said, the chief guest, cut the ribbon at the entrance to declare ‘Creative Deconstruction’, a joint exhibition by 26 international artists, open on the evening of June 14. What followed was a mixed bag of music, dance, chit chat, and a confluence of diverse art with a contemporary message under one roof.
“It all started when I thought of curating and conceptualising a virtual exhibition of the Indian artists group ‘Rangrez’ on the theme of Creative Deconstruction last year,” says Shalini, explaining that the idea of having a physical exhibition with Omani, Indian, as well as artists of varied nationalities living in Oman – budding and international artists – on the same theme was born then.
When Bait Al Zubair approved of the concept of creative deconstruction earlier this year, the ball began rolling as this idea of promoting recycling through art seemed to have a message of its own that was so much in sync with the current times.
“I started choosing my artists based on their type of art style, so as to fall in line with the abstract theme of creative deconstruction. Each artist was told to present deconstruct art or use any deconstructed material or aspect to create new art,” Shalini said, adding that the process of selection continued while she was on vacation in Canada.
After selecting 26 artists, through a laborious process, she realised that they represented 11 countries. And the aim was not just to bring in the best but also to make the event memorable, which was well appreciated by the guests of honour – Divya Narang (wife of Indian ambassador, H E Amit Narang) and Al Zubair Mohammed, besides H H Sayyida Alia.
There was a live instrumental rendition by a flautist and tabla exponent as guests moved around the gallery while Shalini herself added a silver lining to the evening by performing a Bollywood dance along with her husband to the popular song – Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua – from the old Hindi movie Shree 420 of the black and white era.
Some of the participating artists expressed total delight on being part of this exhibition on a theme that was most relevant as well as provided total freedom to artist expression. Shalini herself presented what she called ‘Dreamland’ depicting the ‘dream of a tree’ to be happy within and without. This artwork uses Arabic calligraphy as well as sprays of black, silver and gold acrylic colours over a red background.
Julia Jean Davies, an artist from UK said, “I have one painting in the exhibition – ‘There are 360°, so why stick to one’. This is a quote by celebrated British Iraqi Architect, Zaha Hadid, and loosely relates to a deconstructed urban landscape. I wanted to celebrate the infinite perspectives present at such an exhibition, hence the inclusion of mirrored pieces. The viewer’s gaze is reflected back from different angles, reminding that the viewer is also present in any artwork, and there are multiple ways of looking at things and appreciating an artwork from a variety of perspectives.”
Julia added, “Dr Shalini is a joy to work with, very positive and uplifting, so I was inspired to do my best for her and for the group. The creative community of Muscat is very warm and supportive and a hugely positive part of my life here in Oman. I am particularly proud to showcase this piece as I really enjoyed working towards this theme which was quite outside my comfort zone – it’s very large and my first truly abstract work.”
She further explained that creative deconstruction, in this context, meant analysing the whole process of an artwork – choices and decisions about materials and media (hence the collages within the collage, inclusion of mini canvasses upon the surface of the board); also the compositional elements, as well as colour choices. “I wanted to deconstruct the relationship between artist and audience – while the artist produces the piece, the viewer perceives the piece, and so both are present in the work.”
Mohammed al Attar, an Omani artist said it was a privilege and honour to participate in an exhibition at Bait Al Zubair with artists of different nationalities. “Deconstruction to me is the fact, that when everything falls down to pieces, it can always be brought back again as a whole beautifully,” he said.
His presentation, he said, is a collaborative art installation with Zakariya al Esry and it reflects the take on the inner journey a person would go through. The artwork is a collective of three pieces combined together as one.
“The work represents three stages – the beginning of the journey which carries fears and worries as you are not aware of the uncertainty ahead, the middle stage when you decide to be more aware, more connected with your purpose, knowing that there are choices to make, and the final stage, where you realise that all the steps you took brought you to a place of self connection.Now you know where you stand and to whom, where and why you are heading,” he explained.
Mirna Youssef, another visual artist from Lebanon, said, “My love story with nature started since childhood in the green mountains of Lebanon and continued in the Omani magical landscapes from sea to mountains. Nature is my source of inspiration and through this work I want to create a space of inspiration for people to reconnect with nature and reshape their relationship with the environment.”
As part of creative deconstruction, Mirna presents a textile installation that consists of 50 pieces of palm tree fibre and 100 golden fine threads which shows viewers a metaphorical representation about climate change and global warming which are destroying the environment – represented here by detached falling palm fibre pieces. It also presents the other side of things – hope and optimism in the ability of people together to sustain life on planet Earth by using the golden threads holding the fallen pieces to have it attached again.
“My artwork represents the abstract minimalism art school, I chose to use the natural palm tree fibres to put the viewers in direct contact with nature and let them contemplate the hidden beauty of the abstract natural pattern, movement and colour. I added golden threads in my composition to reflect a spiritual perspective and flow,” Mirna said, adding “I was honoured to be invited to participate along with all the talented artists who are presenting very special artworks using different styles and mediums. This variety of works makes the exhibition unique and enjoyable to the viewers. I look forward to more creative art ventures in Oman, and I believe in the artists’ ability to keep pace with the contemporary art scene.”