Omani artist paints His Majesty the Sultan's portrait on rocky canvas
May 6, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Aziz Al Shihi said he was inspired to use the flat rock face instead of painting on a canvas because he has an interest in graffiti. – Photo courtesy Aziz Al Shihi

Muscat: In a giant display of national pride and love for his rule, Omani artist Aziz Al Shihi painted a portrait of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said on a rock face above his hometown of Khasab.

The giant oil portrait, which is five metres high and three metres across, features His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said in profile, wearing his blue and red massar, and the black and gold of a bisht visible on his shoulder.

The rooftops and date farms of Khasab, and more specifically Aziz's village of Al Hajer, are visible in the distance behind the portrait, as are the mountains on the other side of the town, creating a stunning and dramatic backdrop for the painting.

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'Musandam loves you'

"I hope that His Majesty sees this painting, and my message can reach him without having to type any phrase or even a word. This painting speaks for itself and says Musandam loves you, Your Majesty, and you stand high above the tops of the mountains," Al Shihi, 28, told the Times of Oman.

Al Shihi said he was inspired to use the flat rock face instead of painting on a canvas because he has an interest in graffiti. One of the artists he admires the most is Banksy, the elusive British graffiti artist who has painted art on walls and other public places all over the UK as well as other countries such as Palestine.

"Recently I have been following global artist Banksy and I decided to start the field of graffiti, too. He is my hero in this area," said Al Shihi. It took two months of planning and a week of painting for five hours a day for Al Shihi to complete the portrait. He had to use a ladder and large brushes to paint the huge likeness.

Al Shihi said he hopes the portrait will last for at least 30 years because it's in a relatively shady place where the sunlight won't cause the paint to fade.

Now that it's finished, it is getting a lot of attention from people in his hometown and beyond, thanks to social media.

"I saw the surprise and wonder in some people's eyes, but the best comment on the painting was from an old man who told me, 'For the first time I see the rock speak'," said Al Shihi.
Highly realistic

The artist, who has been drawing since he was a child, became inspired to pursue art seriously after meeting Anwar Sonya, who is considered the "godfather" of Omani artist. "My view of art changed when I met this artist," Al Shihi said of Sonya. 

He began drawing highly realistic drawings of forts, castles, horses and other Omani scenes, but soon experimented with a variety of other media and techniques until settling on graffiti and caricatures.

He hopes this portrait will help give him a greater chance to find success as an artist, something he hopes all artists in Oman can find.

"We deserve a chance. That's all we want: just a chance," he concluded.

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