Coffee aesthetics: Untitled Works exhibition

Coffee tempts our taste buds, seduces us with its aromatic smell, and as an ongoing art exhibition showcases: it can also be used to heighten the aesthetic appeal of paintings.

The use of coffee as a medium for art is just one of the things that makes the paintings of Mariyam Omar unique. The other could just be the sheer ambiguity of her work, open to the interpretation of the person viewing it.

“I don’t like to title my paintings. It’s up to the viewer to find meaning in my paintings” says the 30 year-old with a charming smile. When you first ask her the question of what her paintings depict, she throws the question right back at you. She seems fascinated with the interpretation others give to her creation.

Hence the name “Untitled works”, which seems aptly suited for Omar’s first solo exhibition. The 24 paintings on display showcase her signature style, brush strokes of deep colours punctuated by snow-white figures and limbs of men and women.

The exhibition also signals a break from convention as the artwork on display comes with a price tag, giving the possibility for visitors to walk away with a painting.

An outsiders view

“It was during school that I first used coffee in my painting,” says Omar, explaining that this was where she learnt the use of different mediums. Nowadays she uses acrylic, gouache, ink and coffee for her creations.

The brush strokes in her paintings, almost seems like a reflection of the turmoil within us. The swirls, twirls and strokes of the brush could be of anger, frustration or calm and tranquillity, a mirror of our own emotions at a given time.

“I have tried to explore the void that exists in each of us,” says Omar adding that even if one tries to find out things, one is always limited to gaining an outsider’s perspective.

Maybe that explains why the figures in her paintings are so mysterious; rarely do we get to see their faces. In one, a man is almost in the process of walking out of the painting. Leaving behind the myriad background of swathes of blood red and dark colour with the muted green beneath, the only visible part of him is his torso, neck and arm.

It is the unpainted white of the canvas that gives birth to the figures and limbs in her painting. The colours that swirl all around it, forms its outline, but as Omar puts it: “It depends on your perspective, the figures could be the ones that are coloured or not.”

One of the most striking pieces and one that already has the red tag, which marks the pieces that are sold, is a woman with her back to you. Her graceful lines denotes an uncanny feeling that at the same time as you are contemplating her, she is contemplating something in front just beyond your line of vision.

An artist in Maldives

Omar is a graphic artist by profession. “It’s not possible to gain a living in Maldives by being a full time artist” is her explanation.

As well as having taken part in collective exhibitions including ‘Beyond The Tourists Eye, Issue of Identity in Maldivian Art’ ,Omar has also done art residencies in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

In day-to-day life Omar finds it difficult to make the transition from graphic artist to painting. So she gets around it by trying to take off a month each year just to concentrate on painting. Most of the work she has produced for the exhibition was done in a month.

Along the way social upheavings have also spilled onto her canvas. Two paintings on display have titles ‘Lock and Oath 1&2’, a break from her traditions. “It’s my frustration at the haste with which Maldivian judges took the controversial lifetime oath behind locked doors,” explains Omar.

Omar’s creations have moved visitors, that some have already bought her paintings. Jennifer Latheef has already snapped up one of Omar’s paintings. A first time buyer of Maldivian art piece; Latheef says the paintings spoke to her of injustice.

“Her paintings with fragmented body parts, spoke of the mind, body and soul in a fragmented world or a world that fragments people,” Latheef says.

The dozens of visitors streaming in daily would each walk away with their own interpretation. And their lies the appeal of Omar’s paintings. Her paintings move you by their undisputable visual beauty, but also seem to ask questions of you and the world around you.

“Untitled works” will be on display until the 30th of March 2011 at National Art Gallery, each working day from 9 am to 6 pm.


11 thoughts on “Coffee aesthetics: Untitled Works exhibition”

  1. ‘Lock and Oath 1&2’, a break from her traditions. “It’s my frustration at the haste with which Maldivian judges took the controversial lifetime oath behind locked doors,” explains Omar.

    That’s a really nice title and It’s hard to believe she took a break from her traditions which starkly conflict my own traditions, even though I generally choose not to comment but

    “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.”
    ~British statesman Edmund Burke

    And because of that I believe I should just write something about the “Haste” in which Maldivian judges took oath -

    Article 285 (b) of the constitution states “The Judicial Service Commission established pursuant to Article 157 of this Constitution, shall within two years of the commencement of this Constitution determine whether or not the Judges in office at the said time, possess the qualification of Judges specified in Article 149.

    And Article 285 “(d) Where it is determined as provided in article (b) that a Judge possesses the qualifications specified in Article 149, such Judge shall be appointed as a Judge under this Constitution.”
    Now let’s analyze that, the Maldivian constitution was ratified on the 7th of August 2008, as per the constitution, the Judicial Service Commission should determine if a judge meets the qualifications under Article 149 of the constitution within “2 years” from the commencement of the constitution, which is from 7th August 2008 to 7th August 2010.

    Now the Maldivian judges took their oath on the 4th of August 2010, now that’s just 3 days before the end of the deadline mentioned in the constitution.
    Hence they waited till the very end of the stipulated period.

    I would have believed, it was done in haste if they took their oath on let’s say 14th of August 2008 (the first 7 days), or let’s say 7th August 2010, 1 year (365 days) from the commencement of the constitution, but it is very difficult to say that it was done in haste when it took them 727 days to be precise, to take their oath.

    And if they delayed it as per what Aishath Velezinee wanted, it would have contravened the constitution and Article 285 because the Judicial Service Commission is “only” empowered to do it within “2” years from the commencement of the constitution, now some may find it hard to believe that former supreme court justice and then the Judicial Service Commission president Mujuthaz Fahumy was the person who followed the constitution while Aishath Velezinee wanted to delay the deadline written in the constitution and contravene the constitution, but when you read the constitution (btw that’s a link from the president’s office) it’s not too hard to understand it.

    Now the president has said Article 129 of the constitution is symbolic (Ministers should receive parliamentary consent), Velezinee political appointed member to the JSC has said the constitutionally stipulated “2” year period (Article 285) written in the constitution is “symbolic” but it is clear that there is nothing symbolic in the constitution.

  2. I think Omar is psycho. Doesn't she know the responsibility and duty of a woman in Islam? Also it is haram to paint the living things created by Allah.

    Although Omar thinks that she gets comfort from this work, Allah would not bless a person who is performing haraam things.

  3. John: Maybe I've heard that some good old wannabe Seyku said that Internet is Haraam. It is American made! :o) You better get off it. Ooooo ... Haraam ...

    Oooooo ....

    Oooooooooo ....

  4. I would like to highlight the comment by Naseer on the previous minivan article on this subject:

    "Art Gallery has become a property of State Minister Mohamed Mumdhooh Waheed and his group of friends. he is corrupt up to his bald head. Maldivian art is hijacked wonder who can help"

    There are so many real Maldivian artists craving for this opportunity. But it's always either a Soren or a foreigner or some rich kid or a Mary and an Affoo. I hear that there's an exhibition planned for the state deputy sergeant himself. This is what happens when government keeps a Nasreena's boy for art ministry. Because they thinks artists are stupider than this guy.

  5. Kuruhaa Sarangu. Who do you mean by "real Maldivian artists"?

    If they are artists craving for an opportunity then they should get busy, put their creativity to work out there (there's the internet if no gallery will take them), make some mind blowing art, and show it anywhere they wish - artists need not stick by any rules. if they are true artists, why are they letting any old politics stop them?

    You can't get your art into a gallery by whining and posting bitter messages on forums like this. Stop pointing fingers, and playing the victim and do something about it.

  6. Mariyam Omar's work is absolutely amazing. I truly loved her work.

    John... i do believe there r rehabs for people like you. For ur sake and the sake of others around you, pls get some help. And by the way... what have u been smoking to think that Allah is unjust... and has two sets of rules for men & women... tauba tauba for even thinking such evil

  7. Mamdhooh needs to resign. All artists here are left to rot. While Mariyam Omar can take the easy way by being his friend. Nasreena system cant work now.


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