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Oman Needs More Scholars of Art Criticism, Research Group Says

/ 25 Dec 2021

Oman Needs More Scholars of Art Criticism, Research Group Says

Oman needs more scholars of art criticism and history, says a group of art education professors at Sultan Qaboos University. They have launched a project in the university’s College of Education that they hope will fill that gap and attract more young scholars to the field.

The professors established the Critical and Historical Research in Visual Arts Group to help overcome a “noticeable reluctance among students to enroll in graduate programmes, and a lack of training workshops in this field.”

“The group’s objective is to qualify a body of young Omani scholars at the department of art education in critical art research and  related  studies,” Yasser Mongy, head of the research group and an assistant professor of art education, told Al-Fanar Media.

“The group’s objective is to qualify a body of young Omani scholars at the department of art education in critical art research and related studies.”

Yasser Mongy   Head of the research group and an assistant professor of art education

Mongy, who has twice received the Sharjah Award for Plastic Arts Critical Research, said the group aims to publish interdisciplinary research papers on topics that require cooperation between researchers in different fields.

The group also plans to organise academic workshops and bring in Arab writers and critics to talk about their literary and critical experiences.

For its first event in September, the group invited Farouk Hosny, a former Egyptian minister of culture and chairman of the Farouk Hosny Foundation for Culture and Arts. More recently, the Egyptian-Canadian novelist and translator May Telmissany, was the main attraction.

The group also hopes to form partnerships with universities that have programmes in art criticism, art history, visual heritage, and museum studies.

Art Criticism, Versus Art Itself

Omani academics agree that not enough graduate students are specialising in art criticism and history because most prefer to study and practise art itself.

Badar Almamari, head of Sultan Qaboos University’s Art Education Department and a member of the research group, told Al-Fanar Media: “The decline in the fine art movement caused a direct decline in art criticism. When the tangible visual material disappears, art criticism will disappear. Very few scholars turn to art criticism today.”

One reason why so few study art criticism, Almamari said, is the lack of writing about art criticism and art history. “Little is available interpreting artworks, tracing the plastic structure of the artwork, and revealing its expressive significance,” said Almamari, who is currently finishing a book about art studies.

He added: “In this research group, we are trying to fill that gap, by presenting what helps artists and art students to explore artistic and historical criticism.”

Fakhriya Al-Yahyai, another professor in the research group, sees it filling a gap in the academic documentation of visual artworks

“We aim to advance critical and artistic research, provide a solid research base for Arabs in general and Omanis in particular, and build research partnerships on a larger scale between Arab and Omani critics.”

Fakhriya Al-Yahyai   A professor in the research group

“We aim to advance critical and artistic research,  provide a solid research base for Arabs in general and Omanis in particular, and build research partnerships on a larger scale between Arab and Omani critics,” said Al-Yahyai. “We also aspire to have an academic asset concerned with Omani affairs in particular.”

Through the research group, she hopes to “link the College of Education’s students and scholars with the Arab art criticism movement, and related cultural and research activities.”

Inspiring Women to Write About Art

Al-Yahyai, who supervises the Arts Laboratory at the Bait Al Zubair cultural foundation, holds a master’s degree in arts from the University of Wales, and a Ph.D. in philosophy of arts from De Montfort University, in the United Kingdom.

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She is also one of the first female academic artists specialising in the plastic arts in Oman, and she hopes to interest other Omani women in critical writing about art.

“Art criticism is a difficult field,” she said.  It is only for interested intellectuals which is why so few write about this subject in Arab countries.”

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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام