Art Beats interview series – Episode 1/Hassan Meer
An artist needs to be very sensitive to everything around – the people, the community, the culture – which enables him to create meaningful art, says Hassan Meer, Oman’s well-known artist and the founder of ‘Emerging Artists’ programme at Stal Gallery.
In a free-wheeling chat with Ibrahim Gailani, renowned artist and curator in Oman (in the first episode of a new video series called Art Beats shot by Studio.t to explore the powerful and stimulating world of art), Meer explains that there are primarily two sides to every artist’s creativity – first, the physical task of creating a beautiful painting, and secondly, using one’s vision and brain to create meaningful art by being sensitive to things around. “One can be a good artist only if one uses both sides of one’s creativity,” he observed.
Hosted by Gailani, Art Beats is dedicated to showcasing art across various media. Gailani, who is a self-taught contemporary artist of Iraqi and Pakistani descent living in Muscat, has exhibited in the Middle-East, Europe and North America and his recent works are known for its pop-up inspired portraits with street graffiti lettering.
Founder of Gailani Art Retreat, a creative gateway of self-expression using painting and music that has engaged more than 800 participants through 50 art retreats since its inception in 2013, Gailani has a unique way of propagating art as well as encouraging budding artists in Oman to explore new sides to their own talent and potential.
When Galiani asked Meer as to how does an artist nurture that thought process which leads to meaningful art, for which Meer is wellknown, Meer said, “You have to educate yourself and develop a vision. I started out by doing portraits, but I eventually moved towards photography and installation art. Sometimes, an artist cannot express himself in a two-dimensional format, that’s when one needs to think and use your artistic freedom by exploring new forms of expression. Some art cannot be confined to a two-dimensional format, it is then that you have to let it take on a new form. You have to challenge your boundaries, just as all established artists have done over the ages.”
Ghailani pointed out that art schools acquaint budding artists with certain structures and guiding principals of art and it might be a difficult task for them to break that structure and push those boundaries. So how can artist believe in himself/herself and not let the criticism of those who are more used to conventional stuff get in the way of his/her attempt to get out of the box?
Unfazed by this question, Meer replied that creativity and criticism go side by side and one cannot expect not to face criticism when taking on any new creative task. “You cannot go one step further without expecting someone to criticise you. If you don’t accept criticism, you will never improve. But, while keeping the basic structures in mind, one does have the freedom to pursue what interests oneself.”
Acknowledging Meer’s initiative of launching the Emerging Artists platform for your Omani artists, Ghailani asked him how and why he conceived such a programme. Meer informed that the idea was conceived seven years ago to help young artists discover their own creative potential while the winner of each edition is sent abroad on a scholarship to study art in the developed countries. This was because Meer himself had noticed the absence of Omani artists, or their minuscule numbers, in art events held in the region as well as in the West, and wanted Omani artists to come to the forefront on the world map of art.
In his message to young artists in Oman, Meer said young artists in Oman need to work hard, produce more, and participate more in art events as the government, too, has been investing in the art movement to promote Omani artists. “We have much talent in Oman. They need to come forward,” he asserted.
Meanwhile, Gailani told Muscat Daily, that the Art Beats initiative stems from the fact that in 2020, with people being lockdown by and large, and there was need to showcase what good was being done in society at the individual level. The initiative came forth from Studio.t and Dr Sam Samuel from the Indian School Board and it was decided to take a closer look at art in Oman.
“We thought, what if we showcase art talent in Oman in a different way as people are not going out much and are stuck in their homes. So by having a web series, we can take the artists’ point of view to everybody’s homes, since people are not visiting art galleries these days. And the purpose is to bring the younger generation to art, to become part of this community and to contribute as aspiring artists or as people who appreciate art by trying to understand the creative process of artists and the creative soul,” Gailani said, adding, “By understanding that creativity, they can make a contribution to society in some way. And there is also a noble cause attached with this activity, of supporting Oman Cancer Association.”
About the scope for interaction by viewers of this series, Gailani said, “As part of this series, we will be exploring what artists can do in their own area and how they can connect virtually, either through masterclasses or online programmes and online art residencies with an intention to mentor budding artists. That is the ultimate aim of doing this series.”
In the Art Beats series, Gailani will talk about different forms of art. including painting, sculpture, pottery, photography, installation, and more. Art Beats will also feature artists from Oman through interviews and their works.
At the core of Art Beats is a social initiative. Studio.t has collaborated with Oman Cancer Association for a noble cause. At the end of the first season of Art Beats, Studio.t will host a special art-themed event to support the altruistic work being done by Oman Cancer Association. As part of the initiative, an artwork each will be acquired from all artists featured on Art Beats. These art works will be collated into a digital portfolio and shared with prospective buyers. All proceeds from the sale of the artworks will be donated to Oman Cancer Association to support the work done towards cancer awareness.
To further promote the cause, the artworks of the artists that will be up for sale will be showcased at Oman Avenues Mall in the run up to the art event.