Preserving the birth of a nation in paintings

The Omanis consider November 18th the birth of the homeland and not just the birth of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. Nationals and expats from all over the world celebrate annually in an atmosphere of love and loyalty to the Sultan of the country.
This pleasant atmosphere didn’t escape Omani artist Salim al Salami. A proud Omani, he tried to capture this ambience into his artwork.
Having created several pieces, he divided them into separate series which he called “National Artworks” which focused and were inspired by past and present events and “Future Artworks” which reimagined the Sultanate as a futuristic country.
Because of the high quality of his art pieces, he gained high admiration as many felt that the atmosphere they conveyed reminded them generously of how Omani love His Majesty since he took power and how he has worked hard to transform a country in what was once an extremely challenging desert.
Salim’s work philosophy is to link humans with different times and dissect how those times transformed people.
“Most of my work, it’s easy to distinguish the important factor that shaped the art. I like associating humans with their times and the progress we achieved speak highly of what makes up different than other species,” he said.
For his series, the paintings reflect three period of time — the past, present, future and in between these periods, he demonstrated the roles of humans and how they have the power to dictate its transformation.
His work on Oman in the present was characterised by bright elements with the underlying message that His Majesty’s wisdom has been an important factor to take the country out of the dark.
“If we are to look at Oman in its entirety, within the last 50 years, it has grown and achieved so much. The changes were lightning-fast and it continues to grow at a breakneck speed which was almost impossible to believe,” he said.
Salim said that he wants to create a joyful atmosphere in his art. He achieved these by playing with colours.
“Through bright colours such as green, yellow, red, orange, I was trying to reinterpret bright and vibrant Oman’s future because these colours are associated with joy and happiness,” he said.
Depending on the time period, Salim wanted his Omani audience to remember or relate to something. Case in point, his series on the past reminds people of the 70s.
He said, “there are different elements that invoke this nostalgia. One of the photos depicts an old TV that has been used in that era. Castles and forts were prominent subjects as well among these pieces.”
Salim is most excited about his “Futuristic themed” artwork because it gave him the freedom to imagine what it was like.
“I play with symbolism. The futuristic theme allowed me to visualise how I imagine Oman’s future,” he said.
In Salim’s mind, the future includes sophisticated trains, sky-high buildings that are still founded on Omani’s building knowledge.
“I do not forget the importance of contrasting colours such as cold and hot, to create an atmosphere. Developed cities, they are always busy, fast-paced. I tried to demonstrate it in my paintings through colour,” he added.
Asked what to him is the most memorable piece, Salim said that the man riding a donkey speaks a lot to him and perhaps to other people too.
Behind the man and the donkey is a city rising towards the sky, implying an urban boom.
“Here is a dialogue between the past and the present. The man on the donkey represents the past which was a realistic depiction of what once was while the rising houses speak about the present. It’s this juxtaposition that I like, to be able to communicate the reality many Omanis are living today,” he said.
The piece took Salim several days to complete. Using acrylic on canvas, he classified it belonging under surrealism and impressionism school of art.
Salim’s goal for his pieces is that they become a conversation starter, to allow people to have something to talk about and explore.
Salim said that he drew inspiration from the work of many other artists, from Van Gogh to Omani artists like Anwar Sonia, Salim Sakhi, Idris Alhoti and Fahad Al Maamari.
Just like his art, Salim is also hopeful about the future.
“My main goal is to establish an educational institution specialised in the art of painting with its various orientations to spread the culture of art and teach art to young men and women,” he said.

RUQAYA AL KINDI