Bashaayer al Sulaimi –
When artist Kostis Grevakis travelled to Oman, he did not expect that his art and popularity will explode resulting in a series of posts and videos totally going viral. Stories about him and his art shared on social media had reached hundreds of thousands of views as of this writing.
With his art, he managed to promote Oman not only to Middle Eastern audience but to a much wider audience globally.
His kind of art is unconventional, a mixed of the now and then putting popular people and celebrity in Oman landscape or scenery.
“Great historical paintings and art looked much better when I put a piece of Oman in it,” shared Kostis in a tweet accompanied by a photo of Jabal Shams set against Monk’s painting of ‘The Scream’.
We reached out to this talented artist to pick his brain about Oman, his art, and the eventual fame he would come to enjoy.
When did you first know of Oman?
It all started last summer when I met a group of Omani people in my island. They were on a holiday visit. We became friends and after they left, they invited me to visit Oman. I’ve never heard of Oman before and with a planned vacation, I decided to travel to a place completely unknown to me. I haven’t seen any videos of Oman. I wanted to visit the place and discover a different from the one I was raised in.
In some of your work, you integrated the Mona Lisa and some Disney characters with traditional women’s clothes and jewelry. What is your view on Omani women?
Now after a year and after four visits to Oman, I have to say Omani women are the politest and kindest women in the world. I had the privilege to talk with many women of all ages. Talking with Omanis, in general, helps me to understand them more and to use all the knowledge I get from them in my artworks.
You combined Omani character in some of your works with well-known international figures. You also mixed historical paintings like “Night of the Stars” by Van Gogh and “The Cry” by Monk with Omani places and people. Do you think this unlikely pairing contributed to the popularity of your work?
I combined Omani character in some of my works with well-known international figures because I believe that the traditional clothes of the Omanis can stand as art pieces. What’s more beautiful if I have the chance to dress famous international personalities with them.
I started to mix famous paintings from the history of Western art with Omani people and landscapes just because I wanted to express my love for Oman. Mixing my two big loves like art and Oman, it made me feel like a child who plays with what he loves the most. So I never thought about promoting the paintings or Oman. It started as a game of inspiration for me and at the end, it worked really well and became a promotion.
How do you feel about your popularity among Omanis especially now that your artwork has gone viral online?
I really feel proud of what is going on. I’m really glad people notice and like my art. To tell you the truth, I never thought that this is going to happen. I only work in Oman because I was and still am inspired. I want to move to Oman to work and create art in a place that I love the most.
What do you think attracts Omanis to your art? And what attracts and interests you about the Omanis?
I think what attract Omanis to my art is that they see it as something fresh — something they have never seen before. These were not actually my words but are based on people’s messages and comments on my social media pages.
I have travelled to more than 35 countries in the world. I’ve never met a more kind and polite people than the Omanis. They are also kind-hearted. They’d embrace me and they’d embrace my art. As a citizen of the world and as an artist, being embraced and loved is the definition of happiness. Omanis made me feel I’m one of them and at the end, I believed it myself. I now feel more Omani than European.
In a clip on AJ+ Arabic channel, you shared that you do not know why you love Oman. IS THIS STILL THE CASE NOW?
People had been asking me this question. My answer to AJ+ is the same with your question — you can’t answer why you love someone or a place. It’s only love, pure love that gives command to the heart. And my heart uses this command to create Art only and especially for Oman. I still don’t know why I love Oman. Love is a magical thing. You cannot just explain it. It just happens. When the plane landed at Muscat Airport, when I walked in Qurum beach early in the morning or in Muttrah in the afternoons, I felt my heart beating so fast. I thought it’s going to break from happiness and I interpret that as love.