It's easy to see that the 'Duende' exhibition currently taking place at Bait Al Muzna is a journey towards the innermost thoughts and love for nature of two self-aware and consistently evolving artists.
Numerous clues lead to this conclusion. The jars of broken shells sporadically scattered at the reception hall, the baskets of bleached corals peppering the hallways, the grains of sands in some of the artworks and the collection of art from Anna Dudchenko and Alma de Ville not only remind you of an abstract rendition of beaches and mountains, in many of them, particularly with Alma's work, nature also makes up the art.
At first glance, the artworks look simplistic. To an untrained eye, one would say some are just glazed lines and symmetrical and asymmetrical debris collected and pasted together to form a protruding figure on canvas. For this exhibit, however, the devil is in the details and it's only upon closer inspection that one will notice the stroke of genius to all of the pieces hanging on the walls.
De Ville explained it best when she said, "To achieve that simplicity, you have to go through a process where you eliminate all the options that are cluttering and making the artwork clumsy to arrive at something that looks harmonious."
De Ville was born in rural Bosnia, and for a time, was based in the UK before moving to Oman in 2010. Dudchenko, on the other hand, is an established art heavyweight having been in the Sultanate of Oman since 1999. De Ville has a BA (Hons) degree in Interior Design and Technology while Dudchenko not only has a Masters's degree in English Linguistics, she also has Masters in Fine Arts and Art History.
Both women love nature and they can go on for hours talking about the place that definitely has become their second home.
Duende officially opened on March 27, to what Alma would refer to as a success and an intimate affair joined by amazing people who allowed for a free flow of ideas and conversations.
She also said that the name of the exhibition was inspired by a Spanish term that refers to a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity.
"It's when you see something that before your brain has time to rationalise and think, you already let out a gasp. It's that moment that you let out a gasp that we are trying to capture in Duende'', she said.
As to how the partnership came together, both artists explained that they respect each other's work.
"Anna is an amazing artist. She has gone through different styles as an artist, and so did I. Every couple of years, she does something totally different. We share this passion for enjoying our time expressing our art in whatever genre or format that feels right at the moment. She's currently at this stage where she has abstract works to showcase. They remind you a lot about things that you would see in nature for example a cut out of a mountain or the sediments on the beach. When contemplating an exhibit at Bait Al Muzna and with our work complementing each other, it was an easy decision to make'', Alma said.
In addition, "My work has always been centred around environment-conscious and sustainable art. A lot of these materials I use were picked out on the beach but even the shells, I don't pick those that are not broken. What I use are the ones carried by the waves far from the shores and those that are already too broken for mother nature to recycle. I pick up the pieces that animals can no longer use and give them a new life'', Alma explained.
Meanwhile, Anna shared that she had always been haunted by how humans are just but a grain of sand in the context of the vastness of the universe.
"Nature has always been an immense source of inspiration for me. When I walk on the beach and pick up shells and pieces of driftwood or hike in the mountains and watch the sun disappear on the horizon, swim in the ocean or drive along the coastline, I always come across such unique places and landforms that make me want to stop and take a close look. When I take photos of these, the abstract forms later become part of the paintings'', Anna added.
"This exhibition is a small effort to transfer a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe onto the canvas to make the viewer live in the moment, detached from the bothers of life. Some of the paintings might resemble aerial shots of the cliffs and rivers flowing between them, others — the geological formations found on the surface of the rocks and mountains, and a few might have some connection to the beach, but these are not specific places and landforms but rather feelings and emotions triggered by the wind, the waves, the sun, the clouds, the stars and the humble existence in this world'', she shared.
As a follow-through, Alma explained that the majority of her work is a by-product of nature where she is giving new life to what nature no longer needs. Her 56 artwork is a mixture of using urchin pins and dried out shells strategically positioned on a canvas to reveal a bigger picture.
"The latest additions, those that I've worked on during the pandemic, surprisingly would actually remind you of a virus through its shape. When people come and visit, they would understand that art is a journey of discovery where, as an artist, I am discovering possibilities and the best things happen'', she said.
To see how both artists masterfully showcased their skills, Duende will continue to be on show until the second week of May at Bait Al Muzna located near Al Alam Palace. The timing hour from Sunday to Thursday is 10 am to 3 pm. They are close on Friday and will be open from 10 am to 2:30 pm on Saturday.
You can follow Alma de Ville on Instagram @almadevilleart and Anna Dudchenko @annadudchenko55.