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It's not every day that one will find an art gallery in the middle of an industrial area. In a place of grit that communicates hard labour and noise, Alia al Farsi's Alia Gallery in Rusayl is a sanctuary — an escape into a contemporary, abstract world where the artist's works take you on a journey of years of evolution and adaptation that led to the creation of a world that is not only unique but a safe space for her to be just who she is, an artist through and through.
From Qurum, the gallery is around 30-minutes drive away. But once the giant doors of the gallery opens, the hot summer sun blinding everything outside, the cool breeze of the gallery and the burst of colours of the paintings automatically give you a sense of peace.
Alia wasn't present during our visit. It was a good thing. Her presence would have overshadowed her work and from the comfort of silence, it was better to form an opinion without the artist present.
On her behalf was Hassan, currently a one-man team that looks after not just the gallery but everything else — from social media to content creation even sales. After a series of pleasantries, he gave us the layout of the gallery — an intimate coffee shop on the first floor, a beautiful, well-lit library adjacent to it, over 1000 sq. m. of space just for art display, a section for reception and some finer details totally lost to me as the eclectic pieces were too demanding to be ignored.
I knew Alia by reputation. She is one of Oman's most prolific and enterprising women artists. With a career spanning more than 15 years, she's done massively to carve a space for herself in a male-dominated industry. She's showcased and demonstrated her works worldwide, allowed for them to be made the cover of books and magazines, created a partnership with different organizations within the Middle East and signed pacts that ultimately made her one of Oman's icons when it comes to combining business with art. By reputation, it was easy to see that Alia has a dream and she will stop at nothing to make that dream a reality.
Of the hundreds of artworks on display, two pieces would definitely capture your attention. By the entrance is a motorbike painted in her typical style, bursting with life and colour sometimes just looking at the details makes you forget that at one point, she used to drive that vehicle.
"With Alia, she's very very conscious about the things she uses. She masterfully mixes different mediums and no two art pieces are alike. In one piece, she could be mixing fabric with wood and acrylic paints and at other times, you will find them in pieces like chairs and even her motorbike. She gives new life to things she no longer uses," Hassan explained which gave a lot of insight about the woman.
"The motorbike is a statement piece. It wasn't just there for display. It is there because she loves to ride a bike," he added.
Behind the bike serving as a backdrop is a giant self-portrait of Alia sitting on a chair. The actual chair recreated in the painting is sitting on a corner allowing visitors to take a sit on the throne of a kingdom she has meticulously carved out of the richness of her imagination.
This giant piece of art is the priciest in her collection. Its price tag is pegged at OMR 40k and understandably, it is justifiable because you are bringing the woman and her essence to your home or gallery if you're buying it. And personally, the essence of an artist is priceless.
Overall, the complex houses nearly 200 art pieces, the latest that joined the gallery is her collection of golden paintings.
It's easy to get lost amongst the aisles of art pieces. Sometimes, they make sense, sometimes they don't but typical of any art, they all elicit an emotion.
It took us around two hours to get a good understanding of the woman behind the artwork but felt that there was plenty to unpack. Her style, while contemporary and abstract showcases the beauty of Oman and its culture to the world. She found power in her own heritage and she uses the feminine touch and bank on her uniqueness and the originality of her views to elevate her storytelling. She's bold taking her art to directions no one paved for her and as a result, she's masterfully crafted a world of imagination where the likes of Eve with the apple for a head walks in the same alley with Omani women of yesteryears dressed fancifully while doing chores all stuck in their own squares but are willing to leap off the canvas just to be recognized for their beauty.
If you're looking for a new place to explore, this writer would definitely encourage you to check out this world that Alia has created. It might be out of the way but it's a drive worthy of your time.