Colors of Oman

In my opinion, an artistic examination of Oman first and foremost required an analysis of the colors of Oman and an attempt to develop its own particular color system out of the existing geological wealth, with which one could then work in practice.

 

Invited by Juma Al Maskari, I visited the Sultanate of Oman in February 1992 for the first time. Arriving in Oman, I was confronted by Juma's brother, Salim Al-Maskari, a PDO geologist, with the question "What do you know about the geology of Oman." In his opinion, one can only understand and truly experience Oman if one knows its geology. I quickly realized that his statement was correct. The colors and thus the atmosphere of the landscape was dominated by very pale but at the same time intense hues that had nothing to do with the earth pigments which I had brought from Europe. Over the next 2 weeks we went in search of different color values, covering more than 4000 kilometers off-road, and gathered 23 different rocks, clays and sands.

 

The first step of our work was done, now the minerals had to be pulverized. Of course this was not any professional, mechanical equipment available, so we used a simple household appliance: a brass mortar. After a week, all of the minerals had been processed into powdered pigments. We decided to now demonstrate the suitability of Omani earth pigments for artistic purposes with practical examples.

 

To learn as much as possible about the various pigments and their particular qualities, we made tests with different binding agents, the oil content varying in turn.

When Omani pigments are mixed with water and an acrylic binder they become much darker. But when the paint dries the bright, original color returns. The painter must therefore be able to visualize the colors in the painting as they will appear when dry.

Binders with a higher oil content however, behave completely differently. It is easier to work with oil paints than with acrylics, because oils retain the same color intensity in both the wet and dried state. When dry, oil paints also retain the nature of the wet pigment, but unfortunately the bright and colorful character of the dry pigments has nothing to do with Omani colors.

Tests make clear that only the water-based binder can capture and depict the hues of Omani light. Oil colors convey the impression of a radical climate change: they make Omani landscapes appear cloudy, dark and damp.

The results of the experiments were published in 1993 in Oman in an article in the PDO-News.

The resulting Omani color coding system was used for this website, for the corporate design of the project "Religious Tolerance: Islam in the Sultanate of Oman" as well as for the touring exhibition "Sultanate of Oman: Modernity with Tradition."