Omani artists continue the legacy of wood, marble sculptures 

MUSCAT: A lot of ancient artefacts discovered today especially those that fall under art tell a lot of stories not only of how things were done during those times but also of what the prevailing belief systems of the time were.

Similarly, this has been the case for Omani art. Many of today’s art is also influenced by how things were done in the past.

The Omani art scene thrives today because it employed and banked on the techniques of the past and improved them to make them modern and relevant.

In sculpturing, the late Ayoub Maling al Balushi has been a great inspiration for many aspiring artists. Al Balushi almost single-handedly taught all Omani artists the basics of sculpturing and became a revered teacher in this department.

“The beauty of Ayoub’s sculptures is that they independently talk for themselves before he even explains them. In fact, his works need no explanation at all”, Faiza al Wahaibi, an Omani artist, praised.

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“The making of sculpture in wood has been extremely widely practised. But it also poses a lot of challenges. Compared to other media, wood has a shorter life span than other materials such as stone, marble, and bronze. It is vulnerable to decay, insect damage, and fire. But throughout history, the importance of wood to convey the history of art and technique has survived. It has an important hidden element in relation to cultures,” Faiza said.

“Many of the most important sculptures of China and Japan, in particular, uses wood as a medium, and so are the great majority of African sculptures. Wood is light and can take very fine details so it is highly suitable for masks and other sculptures intended to be worn or carried. I can easily carry it when I travel,” Faiza added.

“However, I now prefer working with marble and planning to start with clay,” the artist said.

As a medium, stone is more durable as a sculpture material which makes it especially important as a decorative piece in exteriors of buildings. Carving stone is an activity older than civilization itself, beginning perhaps with incised images on cave walls.

Faiza said that she is working on some sculptures currently that are inspired by the Omani environment and represents the daily life of locals. “I love to add classical touches and decorations in my works,” she said.

Shatha al Busaidi, an art college graduate, said that she is still an amateur in the field but has fallen in love with clay, wood and gypsum.

“When you see your idea on a sculpture, and you keep watching it for years, it motivates you to change and do more enhancements in your works. Visual feeds, browsing the net, watching sculptors, attending exhibitions all inspire me,” Shatha said.

Speaking about her favourite work, Shatha said, “In 2019, I did simple studies of the Cubist school from the Omani culture. I was inspired by a painting of the surrealist artist “Vito Campanella” to draw a cubist sketch of a woman carrying a musical instrument, so I turned that sketch into a sculpture,” she shared.

“I kept it as simple as possible because cubism gets more beautiful in its simplicity. The idea is to merge fine art and musical art to make the work live and speak,” she said.