Sarah White: Chronicling Oman

Originally from United Kingdom but having resided in Oman for over half of her life, visual artist Sarah White’s work has evolved over time into a continuous narrative of her engagement with Oman, interweaving the colors, textures, history, and the cultural vibrancy of her environment into it.

Much of Sarah’s earlier work dealt with exploring Omani architectural spaces, focusing on minute architectural details and imbuing them with what has now become a characteristic kaleidoscopic, iridescent palette. Her interest in architecture and its surrounding environment has been a focal point of her work since her education at Canterbury College of Art, the University of the West of England, and the Royal College of Art. “During my art school years, my parents moved to Oman and I was inspired by the country’s traditional architecture and particularly the way in which people adapted to the harsh geographic conditions through their built environment,” she tells Her Blueprtint, adding that she then sought to record as much traditional Omani architecture as she could while learning about the shapes, textures, and colors of a country that had instantaneously fascinated her.

In her most recent exhibition, In Homage To (also featuring Omani artist Juma al Harthy), she focuses upon the historic 17th century castle of Jabreen, which has been an enduring presence in her work for over two decades. “My personal interpretation and emotional response to this historic space with all its aesthetic details and cultural significance forms the basis of the exhibition,” she describes. 

A work from In Homage to Jabreen
A glimpse into her large body of work reveals that the intense, microscopic focus that White places upon architectural detail, magnifying its beauty is similarly lavished upon Omani women’s clothing, which themselves are visual implosions of colors, patterns, and embellishments. “Omani women are very creative and their dresses are pieces of art in themselves,” she says. 

The theme of adornment, whether through clothing or make-up, greatly interests White. "Our perceptions of our own beauty as human beings can be quite bizarre and women need make-up to alter themselves in order to fulfill their personal expectations of being beautiful," says White. "Make-up, therefore, becomes a vital accessory in addition to hair styles, shoes, and outfits.” 

Moving beyond a generalized exploration of make-up and specifically locating it in an Omani context, she draws attention to the fact that the art of make-up in Oman is highly creative, innovative and flamboyant. "[My interest and work] had a lot to do with the growth of the make-up industry in Oman; women here greatly endorse professional make-up and are hugely creative about it,” she concludes. 

Exploration of make-up
White’s personal and artistic identity in Oman is encapsulated in her award-winning piece, A Life Eclectic. “I have developed an eclectic lifestyle and cultural background and the piece reflects my personal emotions, fears, challenges and passions,” she says; in addition to being an artist, White has actively worked alongside many Omani artists over the years and works for Bait al Zubair Foundation, an organization that preserves, promotes and advances the arts and culture of the Sultanate. 

A Life Eclectic

All images courtesy Sarah White