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Unique exhibition on narcissism opens in Muscat today

18 May 2024 monsters By HUBERT VAZ

For the first time in Oman, a solo exhibition by ceramic artist Shima Amia on the theme of narcissism – Monsters are Beautiful – is being held at Stal Gallery – opening today (May 19) evening. Enter at your own peril…

Mental health is a favourite subject of artists – from anxiety and depression to paranoia and schizophrenia, a range of themes have often found their way on canvases, sculptures and multi-dimensional artworks in solo and group exhibitions the world over… The relationship between narcissism and creativity, however, is a rare phenomenon which has inspired interesting debates for decades.

While narcissism is sometimes considered a by-product of creative talent (as artists often get so absorbed in solitude that it gives off vibes of narcissistic behaviour), narcissist personality traits involving grandiose self-views and superiority tend to link it with creativity. This relationship between narcissism and creativity currently attracts much academic attention and is gaining ground in the psychological field.

Shima Amia, an Iranian ceramic sculptor in Oman, has now pulled out a rabbit from her own hat in this regard with her solo exhibition – Monsters are Beautiful – dealing with narcissism. The exhibition, curated by Javid Ramezani, an art critic and paint restoraitor, opens at Stal Gallery today.

“The theme of my solo exhibition is about mental health and specifically about narcissistic personality,” says Shima, adding that on display will be 17 sculptures and 3 installations, all made by clay, some of which are fully glazed and some with just a touch of glaze. She has been working on this collection for almost a year and all the works on display are totally new.

To a query, whether she has experienced how narcissistic personalities negatively impact the lives of others, prompting the creation of this collection, Shima said, “Yes , the idea for this exhibition is born from my personal experience with a narcissistic personality. And I decided to share my experience and story through my art and sculptures with people, to show how they can affect your life and other people around them in so many different aspects – how mental health is so important.”

She drew attention to the fact that society places immense emphasis on superficial appearances. This fixation on fleeting beauty diminishes the importance of deeper qualities, fostering a culture where outward appearance reigns supreme.

“The narrative of the exhibition is the voice of pain, defeat, and the reflection of the suffering of those who have fallen into the trap of their own narcissism, lies, and hypocrisy,” she said, explaining, “My works are divided into two categories, one includes individuals who have been influenced by these people and the other consists of the narcissistic individuals themselves.”

The message through this exhibition (Monsters are Beautiful) for those who are victims of narcissistic abuse is, that they are not alone, and no matter how difficult and painful the relationship with them may be, in the end, we are the ones who can save ourselves and transform our pain into awareness and light.

It depends what draws you…

How easy or difficult was it to deal with this theme through artistic expression?

It was not easy. It was full of emotions, pain, suffering and sometimes even tears.

Do all exhibits reveal pain, anguish or is there any brighter side?

No. The exhibition ‘Monsters are Beautiful’ is divided into two parts. One part shows pain and anguish and the other depicts light, finding liberation, salvation and hope.

Have you dealt with similar themes before?

No, this is totally a new idea and collection.

Will the negative expressions in the exhibits deter buyers?

I don’t think so. I can’t say they are negative as I tried to show different aspects of all emotions – happiness, sadness, brightness, darkness, love, hate, hope, liberation, strength. So, it depends on what draws each person. I believe, in the end, light will be a winner not darkness.

How do you justify the contradiction in the title?

I chose this title to show that the beauty of monsters tend to make us blind, to forget what the horrible person can be behind the beautiful mask. Often the beauty of appearance prevents us from going deeper to see the reality.

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