Tuesday, March 28, 2023 | Ramadan 5, 1444 H
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Alia Gallery: A destination to inspire art lovers

Alia Gallery stands in the heart of an industrial town in Muscat serving as an oasis of colour and haven for those who seek inspiration. The 860 metres squared warehouse is home to more than 120 art pieces, all crafted by the Omani artist Alia Al Farsi Alia.

Upon entering the high-vaulted and deceivingly plain-looking gallery, the lights lead your eyes towards the huge paintings that welcome visitors with a burst of colours.

"Omani" is what comes to your mind the moment your eyes meet the abstract paintings. From the dresses to the facial features, the artist stays loyal to her background and heritage and reflects the good, the bad and the ugly of human relations.

To your right sits the Mona Lisa of the gallery named “But Mostly Me” -- a 3-metre-wide painting that embodies the sense of pride that overwhelmed the artist upon opening the gallery.

Her looks and gesture resemble the artist as she presides over her works. The painting bursts with symbolic texts in three languages: Arabic, French, and English.

As you pass by the spacious alleys, the paintings get darker and more sophisticated.

Paintings start addressing more troubling aspects of conservative cultures, broken promises, unbalanced relationships, and immigration.

I was humbled by a piece that was hiding in the corner. I scanned the QR code next to it to read its description. It read: "When you walk for miles filled with sorrow, you eventually walk away. Some walk away with their bodies, others depart with their souls. In this piece entitled “Voyagers”, the stretched bodies resemble the length and hardship of their journeys in which few left home in peace, while most bear the brunt of their bitter memories."

While abstract art raises more questions than giving answers, this piece touched a nerve. It displays how seasoned artists can convey a message with few colours and minimalist shapes.

Each painting in the gallery is a result of different phases and experiences that Alia went through. Some display her connection with nature, others showcase her love of Sufism, while she tries to empower women through breaking taboos, especially the ones related to romance.

The gallery is completely designed by the artist herself and it also includes a café (Alia lounge), a library and a gift shop.

"It is a dream coming true. This place was built so people can appreciate art and be inspire emerging artists to create unique pieces," Alia said.

Muttrah, the culturally rich town, is the place where she was born and was imbued to become an avid explorer and culturist with an affinity for historic towns. She says that she is a non-believer in self-imposition of stylistic boundaries, she takes her inspiration from patterns and vernacular architecture.

Alia is an accomplished and unconventional artist. She holds an ineffable belief in the need to explore inner beauty and to help project it to discerning viewers. Not hindered by stereotypical definitions of art and the means of expressing it, she imbues a sense of style in all that she creates. A firm believer that art needs strong roots but these should not act as barriers to creativity and hence her interpretations of Arabic art take on cerebral forms and textures.

The scale of what she can create spans from intricate palm-sized boxes to large wall paintings and even air-force jet fighters. Her recent foray into furniture, sculptures, installations and object painting allows her to showcase and express her talent beyond the two-dimensional settings of the canvas. Complex pieces with multi-faceted subjects sit next to paintings that use old coins and textiles from the Far East.

Her strong spiritual grounding and interest in the philosophies of Sufism is captured in the movements, facial expressions and reflective looks of her paintings.

Her art is celebrated and appreciated in many parts of the world. "I held major solo exhibitions in Tokyo, Dubai, Paris, Seoul, Brussels, and has exhibited at Venice Biennale in addition to over 20 countries," she said.

"My works include large-scale paintings, objects, furniture and installations. My work has been auctioned at Christie's and is displayed at Museums including the Arab World Institute in Paris. I was chosen to be the first Omani artist to exhibit officially at Venice Biennale 2015 and won the prestigious Dr Saud Al Sabah Creativity Award in 2010," she added.

The gallery entry is free since it was designed to attract art lovers. She pointed out that it is planned to make the gallery a hub for emerging artists. It is more of a gift to the community and a display of a lifetime career of one of the most popular art figures in the GCC.

Having a tour in Alia gallery is a wonderful and exceptional experience for art lovers. If it is difficult for you to reach the gallery, however, you can enjoy an online tour through the Instagram account of the gallery: @aliagallery_art or even the Instagram account of its owner, Alia, @alia_farsi.

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