Strip away the colour from an image and you’re left with its most raw form – or, as some might argue, its most real. It’s a perspective Omani artist Arwa Macky asks us to confront in her stark black and white repertoire that’s nothing less than striking.
“Colour is descriptive. Black and white is interpretative”. These words – as told by the legendary black-and-white photographer Elliot Erwitt – come to life as we gloss through Arwa Macky’s paintings… one piece at a time at her exhibition in the Sabco Centre.
There’s something almost avant-garde about her work – clearly, the theories of conventional sketching and painting don’t apply to her paintings. Then again, the young artist says her motivation to create such art work comes from her passion to create “gutsy” paintings.
Arwa says: “I do black-and-white painting because it’s strong, and can portray a story by provoking strong thoughts in the mind.”
Her words are further validated when she reveals that her works are now prized highly by staff and officials at the US Embassy in Oman.
But where did her passion for art begin?
“I began art when I was only six years old,” she says.
“Of course, back then it was mostly paintings and cartoons.”
It doesn’t take an art critic to deduce that Arwa’s paintings portray a whiff of caricature, and cartoon-inspired styles. But, her works are minimalistic – and “look to grab one by the soul”.
But before we can talk about anything else, she then tells us how all her works – which fall under her ‘Paint it Black’ theme – only came to life recently after she rekindled her love affair with painting.
“I stopped painting for a long time after my days in school,” she says, hesitantly.
Over the course of her life, she has put her feet into everything from animation, advertising, game design development (her game Red Ball, which was released in early 2006 [before the inception of smartphones] was a revelation at the time), and even a business in graphic designing.
Soon, however, she realised her dream, and in 2016, armed with a degree from the Monash University of Art Design & Architecture in Melbourne, Australia, she returned to painting for herself; throwing down all her works on a piece of canvas – her acrylic paint, ink markers and felt pens set – all becoming one as they work towards a goal in perfect harmony.
It took the young Omani artist three long years to reach the goal of setting up her first exhibition but she says that it’s an achievement that she can “smile and be happy about”.
Today, Arwa puts down her inspiration down to the cartoonist Bruce Blitz, who created a lasting impression on her life.
“I used to watch his cartoons, and I was always fascinated by how he was able to portray such beautiful meanings with his simple drawings.”
Her works aren’t even close to repetitious, but rather follow the twists and turns that she has taken in life. It takes Arwa a week to complete a painting.
“My ideas for art – or rather my inspiration – comes from mixing life experiences, memories of the past, music, and travel.”
This is probably why she is pulling a lot of young people to her exhibition – with some proclaiming that her art works have touched them.
“I had one Omani teen come to me and tell me how she used to paint all the time but gave up on it. She took my story and my works as an inspiration and vowed to restart her passion.
“Nothing gives me more happiness than being able to touch someone’s life through my art. I think that’s every artist’s goal,” she says.
“Sadly, sometimes we see that a lot of fellow artists are suppressed by society. That used to be the case before but the situation is steadily improving now. A lot of people here appreciate art, and that has led to many local artists flocking the scene.”
The Omani woman’s goal doesn’t end with this exhibition, though. Arwa says that she’ll be collaborating with a few other artists in her future projects. Meanwhile, she’ll also be laying the groundwork for the latest project this year.
Arwa says: “Creating art, expressing myself and life through art full-time is what I’ve lived for, and it’s still what I live for.
“I won’t stop until I reach my full potential. Till my last breath, this is what I will do – I will continue to live and breathe art, and hopefully one day transform lives through this gift I was given by the grace of God.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has ever supported me and those who continue to do so.
“And God bless my mother who’s been my number one inspiration, my number one fan, and my greatest supporter.”