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Stal Sisters, Meet The Ambassadors Of Stal Gallery In Oman

Omani artists Rawan Al Mahrouqi, Safa Al Baluchi, Ruqaya Al Balushi and Nabaa Baqir share their experiences in the field of contemporary art.

Since the inception of Stal Gallery’s Young Emerging Artist Awards, the local art scene has never been the same. Brought to life by the gallery’s curator (and one of Oman’s most celebrated visual and conceptual artists) Hasan Al Meer, the awards have spawned an immense number of young Omani artists, whose remarkable storytelling abilities have proven that art is truly thriving in Oman.

At this gallery, four women with unique perspectives met with an aim to express themselves and understand the beauty of contemporary and conceptual art. Alongside their fellow emerging artists, these women built a little eco-system for themselves, a new home to free their mind, share their story and raise awareness on social issues that spark a conversation or two. They trained and honed their storytelling skills, participated in a variety of events and for some, even curated a number of exhibitions.

Today, they’ve become true ambassadors of concept art at Stal Gallery, representing the space by heart, and telling impeccable stories of hidden feelings that sit beautifully on canvases and installations. 

RAWAN AL MAHROUQI

I remember being young and drawing on anything I could get my hands on, including walls. My passion was unstoppable, so I went to study art education. Today, I feel that I’ve become an artist and curator with a perspective. I am mostly influenced by people and their culture. I find it to be very interesting. And given the complexity of our own culture, I like to dissect it through my art. There are things I don’t understand myself. And often times, I’m asking myself these questions, through artworks and visual installations, to start important conversations. I often remain neutral in my approach, leaving the people to start a discussion and make their own conclusions.

I love to speak about our culture and experimenting with it in a conceptual way. I like to ask questions about why we do the things we do, and the blurred line between tradition and religion, and most importantly, my experience as a woman in our society. I feel that our experience as young women from the Gulf is under-documented and it’s our job as artists and creatives to do that.

I was part of the very first Stal Gallery Prize for Young Emerging Artist Awards. The exhibition and the gallery itself have taught me so much about being an exhibiting artist, about the business, the art world and how things work. I have assisted in curating exhibitions alongside one of the gallery curators, Hasan Al Meer, and I have curated my own exhibition titled Ascendence. Now, I have launched Makan, a space that offers art classes for people who want to explore this field but don’t know how to go about it. We focus on beginners. We teach them the basics and have great conversations throughout.

RUQAYA AL BALUSHI

I usually have many concepts and ideas stuck in my head with no way to come out, except at Stal Gallery; that space allows me to be myself and gives me the courage to share my personal experience in a beautiful and sometimes painful, yet freeing way.

My art is based on my life or my current status. They are reflections of my struggles. I rarely elaborate on my illustrations or installations because they are very personal, but it’s beautiful to see how people take them in. I love listening to their interpretations. It’s the best way to release what’s hidden within. It’s the only way I could keep my sanity intact, a therapeutic escape if you will.

I love classical arts and I have studied digital and animation but my passion lies in installations because it really complements the concept and offers people a holistic, tangible experience, which is what I want for my work. During my Disfiguration exhibition, I poured my heart out in an installation, which was a real experience of feeling trapped. The audience who turned up at the event gravitated to the idea and some of them even thought of it as relatable.

My biggest achievement to date was being part of the Disfiguration exhibition, which was curated by Safa Al Baluchi. I had the chance to free myself from a personal struggle at that very exhibition. The gallery was my first glimpse into the world of conceptual art in Oman. It felt strange at first but it ended up being my absolute favourite place. My new home. 

SAFA AL BALUCHI

Art for me is healing. I have to feel it, experience it and get the best out of it. I am more of a conceptual and visual artist who likes to explore contemporary art using different mediums, such as performances, installations, video and photography. My work is mostly experimental and is centred around my personal life and the conflicts I have had to face or yet to overcome, and I use it to express myself, which makes my own life the number one inspiration for my art. A lot of times, we have the option to either face our problems or hide; for me I face them with visuals. In my art, I tell my story and hopefully, people can relate. My life was never easy, and it took me a long time to become myself and live my best life. So that empowers me and inspires others. When I release an artwork or an installation, I am taking you on a journey of finding myself with concepts influenced by the art of darkness, and that’s always exciting.

I had my first opportunity at Stal Gallery and I have recently curated my first exhibition titled Disfiguration. That has given me the validation I needed as an artist. We feel responsible to tell people about art, to experience it and benefit from it, so I look forward to sharing more visual experiences with the world.

NABAA BAQIR

When I was studying in London, I always enjoyed going to art galleries, but I never thought I’d ever exhibit in one until I was invited to participate at the Emerging Artists Awards in 2017 in Oman. It was the start of a new journey, a proper introduction to the world of conceptual art. Only then I truly understood what art was all about.

Religion and social issues interest me the most; they create interesting dialogues and various interpretations, which are incorporated in my concept art. I enjoy creating artworks inspired by real stories I have read or heard, portrayed through my lens. In my last exhibition, Untitled, I expressed my personal experience with catcalling. I wanted to raise awareness on such social issues that affect us women and open a dialogue to find solutions.

The opportunities I have had from Hasan Al Meer and Stal Gallery have been incredible, I am truly grateful to have gone through the experience, and to have shared my vision with the world. Through Stal, I have met tons of artists who continue to inspire me with their art. I also have an Instagram page called Go Art Muscat (@goartmuscat) where I post about art events, workshops and exhibitions happening in Muscat, in hopes to bring contemporary and conceptual art to the forefront, perhaps expanding my Instagram page into an art organization, where I organise art events, talks and bigger exhibitions.

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