Tahira’s Angels
February 28, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photo - Hi

An exhibition of paintings titled 'Geometric Souls' by Tahira Fida is on at Bait Al Zubair. The Arab woman artist explores matters for which there are no real answers through the sixty-five works on display

Everything about Tahira Fida is straight from the heart.  She stood before the crowd at the opening of her first solo exhibition last week at Bait Al Zubair, and spoke in her characteristically genuine way. Tahira conveyed her passion for Islamic art, especially its geometric representation, which, along with new discoveries in calligraphy, has helped to define Tahira's identity as an Arab woman artist. Tahira touched a chord in the audience at Bait Al Zubair  when she said she felt the presence 'somewhere in the air' of the late Sarah White, a greatly loved colleague who was always there in the courtyard to greet people as they arrived on opening nights.

Tahira's Palette of the Sea
I first met Tahira in 1999 when she was embarking on what she would eventually call her journey as an artist. My strongest memory of Tahira is in her early ceramic period when she was creating extraordinarily beautiful turquoise surfaces that she would frame in white, window-like paradigms, tingeing the piece with gold.

I remember Tahira saying that these works were inspired by growing up in Mutrah when she would look out at the sea from the old windows of her childhood house on the Corniche. As she spoke, I pictured Tahira at the window and it was as if I could touch the colours in the sea – turquoise, green, blue.

Eventually Tahira created a vast ceramic wall piece on this theme for the Al Waha Hotel at Shangri-la, Barr Al Jissah. Titled From my Window and rendered in Tahira's iconic colours, the piece represents a view of the bay from Muttrah Corniche and hangs above the landing of the grand stairway. It is seen in juxtaposition to the real seascape, as viewed through the glass doors that lead out onto the piazza and the shore. This impressive work is several metres long and has become a signature element in the décor of the hotel.

From war to angels
During the Iraq war, Tahira Fida had the courage to paint the horror of that apocalyptic invasion. It was perhaps the first time in Oman that anyone dared to exhibit in public the ugly truth of a political reality - and it was shocking.

But there it was again before our eyes: The Iraq War…Oh My God - a grey and black canvas of a woman screaming with all her might as bombs are exploding all around. This work is paired with a black canvas splattered with blood red. In view of the present carnage in Syria, these graphic paintings are as relevant now as they were more than a decade ago, in 2003.

Among the sixty-five works in the exhibition was a set of large canvasses - striking existential works painted in 2013. Two of these are titled Angels. Tahira explained that "although we never see angels, they are always among us".

Tahira's angels were depicted as amorphous beings in aura-like colours shadowing elongated, barely defined people. The colours of the angels came from the sky and sea – the turquoise, the sea green and the sky blues that Tahira has loved all her life.

In search of the soul
While Tahira Fida's oeuvre is characterised by diversity, the common thread stems from her search for the truth of the world in which she lives. That truth comes in various forms – religious, existential and personal.  The figures that she is currently depicting on canvas are elongated and armless. They exist in ephemeral space. It is as if Tahira is paring down and disintegrating empty human figures in search of the soul.

Tahira sees the regularity and infinities of geometric art as having parallels in the meaning of human life, and this is partly why she has titled the exhibition "Geometric Souls".  I have said "partly why" because I have the feeling that, with this title, as in her art, Tahira is exploring matters for which there are

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