Nine Arab artists coming from Oman, Kuwait, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco flew to China to take part in the 11th Insight of China: Painting Workshop for Famous Arab Artists in China. The nine artists were famous and masters in their respective fields. The trip which lasted for 17 days was fully packed not only with art workshops but sightseeing tours. The artists were given opportunities to appreciate the sights and draw inspiration from what they saw.
Departing on July 25 from Oman, Omani artist Saud al Hunaini was excited about the opportunity. It wasn’t his first time to join such event and he is very supportive of the event’s goal of “continuously strengthening the cultural and humanitarian ties between China and the Arab countries.”
Widely recognised and welcomed by Arab artists, this workshop has been held annually from 2009 to 2018, making it an increasingly-known brand for China-Arab cultural exchanges. It has played a positive role in the promotion of friendly ties between the artists and the people of China and the Arab world.
For this year’s workshop, the nine Arab artists arrived in Hongkong on July 25, were toured to Hong Kong Museum of Art and the Pitta Street Gallery in the morning of July 26 and were shown the Victoria Harbour and Taiping Peak in the afternoon. They had knowledge exchange with artists from the Hong Kong Association of Arts in the morning of July 27 and visited Lamma Island in the afternoon. July 28 to 30 were spent seeing Macau and exploring the Macau Museum of Art as well as seeing the local attractions. They were also given time to buy their painting materials as the overall goal was for them to produce original work of arts inspired by China attractions.
July 31 to August 2 were sent visiting natural landscapes, historical and ancient remains and several art schools and studios where the artists were given more opportunity to interact with Chinese artists in Shenzhen City. The purpose of this interaction is for Arab artists to learn some techniques from their Chinese counterparts and vice versa.
September 3 to 8 were busy days for the group as they were in full artist mode working in the studio. The artists were given six days to create a minimum of two (2) major works which will be permanently collected by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of China and in return, earning them a certificate for the exchange.
An important exchange
Omani artist Saud al Hunaini has studied art in Spain, Italy and the USA, graduating with a master’s degree in Art from Central Washington University. He is currently completing his doctorate degree in Fine Arts (History of Arts) at the Lincoln University in the United Kingdom.
For him, attending the event was a privilege and a great learning experience, an opportunity that not a lot of artists get to experience.
“This is my second participation in this workshop. I was one of the few attendees during its first season and I am glad to be back in its 11th season,” Saud shared.
Saud’s invitation was well-deserved. He has been awarded many prizes nationally and internationally, the most prestigious of which was His Majesty Sultan Qaboos’ prize. Specializing in oil and mix media, Saud has a unique method of painting. He also works with calligraphy, photography and sculpture. In addition, Saud is also an accomplished musician.
“To have been selected to participate is an honour. This adds an important cultural aspect in the life and career of an artist. The exchange of experiences and work within the selected Arab creators and the interaction with Chinese artists allow us to learn from each other,” he said.
“The idea of the event is to visit different regions and provinces in China for visual nutrition. The paintings we produced in the workshop were inspired by our visits to the different beautiful and important locations. By seeing the different places that make China a remarkable country, we were able to simulate the environment and nature and we incorporated what we saw to our painting to add authenticity to what we do,” he said.
Saud’s painting techniques are inspired by powerful Renaissance realists like Rembrandt. He also draws inspiration from modern masters of sensuality like Salvador Dali.
Saud’s painting has been described as “magic realism.” A self-described minimalist, his art is anchored in his way of life and he often shifts between humanity, freedom and peace as his themes.
“At first glance, his landscape paintings may seem like basic compositions simply reflecting his Omani heritage. On further examination, the paintings are like magic carpets filled with illusions as the unending surprises and flawless energy of this wizard are unveiled. His multi-dimensional compositions reveal new secrets each time. Everyday objects are painted with emotion and sensuality that makes them seem animated on canvas,” an observer once said.
An opportunity to grow as an artist
The organiser of the workshop covered all expenses for the trip, from the airfare tickets to hotel accommodations even the painting tools. This allows the artists to focus on the creative.
Kuwaiti artist Ahmed Muqeem who joined Saud shared that it was his biggest honour and pleasure to have joined the trip.
“I worked in a studio with an amazing artist. I became best friends with Saud al Hunaini — a famous brilliant realist painter from Oman. During the trip, we exchanged opinions and critique each other’s works. It was an amazing learning opportunity and a great time to grow as an artist,” he said.
Ahmed has produced two paintings he titled “Macau in a photographer’s eyes” showcasing the beauty of Macau modern landscape and “Lotus Lake” which shows the irresistible beauty of a lake in Shenzhen.
The photos were displayed in a gallery in China for the lovers and patrons of the art to appreciate and see.