Multi-disciplinary artist and founder of Project MIRRO Miriam Omar on her first solo exhibition inspired by nature

She also shares how Covid-19 affected her and upcoming plans for the near future.

The idea for Miriam's Daydreams exhibition came about during Covid-19’s first-ever lockdown (Photo: Miriam Omar)

Options: Congratulations on the launch of Daydreams. What made you decide to work with ZHAN Art | Space for your first solo show?
Miriam Omar: Thank you so much. ZHAN Art | Space has always been a big supporter of emerging Malaysian artists. So, when I was looking for spaces to host my exhibition, the gallery provided ample support to help envision it. They have also featured many genres of artists from different backgrounds, which solidifies their openness to new ideas when it comes to presenting and promoting contemporary art.

It has been five years since you embarked on your artistic journey. Tell us what made you feel you were ready for this first show.
Since pursuing art full time, my goal has always been to refine and develop my own sets of visual language and technique — to create something that not only reflects who I am as an artist but also as an individual. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to craft, why it matters, how it relates to me and what I wanted to say about the world. I also worked on my colour studies and mark-making to develop a palette and style that suited the subject matter and theme. It took a lot of experimenting. Once I was clear about who I was and what I wanted to say, both literally and figuratively, I felt more confident and ready for my first solo. I’ve also been extremely lucky to have had unconditional support and love from my family, friends and, most importantly, my collectors, who had been pushing me to embark on this artistic phase and host the show.

You mentioned that Daydreams was inspired by people and places you had wanted to meet and visit. Can you tell us about some of these personalities and destinations?
The idea for Daydreams came about during Covid-19’s first-ever lockdown. Like the rest of the world, I felt isolated and lonely. I was longing to be out in the wild, in nature, and I ‘daydreamed’ of being outside. So, I painted all the places I wished I could visit. The artworks were inspired by the greens of the Malaysian jungles and the wildflower meadows in London, where I frequently travelled as a student. As for the figures, they represent what I was missing — the human connection, the feeling of other people’s warmth, energy, companionship and togetherness. I also have a love for traditional clothing, so, I translated my love for baju kurung, baju kebaya, batik and kaftans onto canvas — clothing that reminded me of home, safety and familiarity.


'Jungle Slumber' (Photo: ZHAN Art | Space)

Covid-19 has been hard for many people. Looking back, what would you tell people who are looking to start 2023 with love, growth and rest?
The pandemic was a very traumatic experience for most of us. Even if it didn’t feel like it, our bodies and minds were still processing what happened. I believe, however, that to move forward, the best thing to do is take a break, reflect and process. We need to be in touch with our emotions and thoughts to reconnect. By allowing ourselves to breathe and understand what we went through, we can hopefully look ahead and open our hearts for a better future.

You also speak about the importance of self-love as part of Daydreams. What are your favourite ways to be kind to yourself?
It would be saying ‘no’ a lot more. In this fast-paced, high-pressure world we live in, saying ‘no’ and taking it slow is probably one of the most honest yet underrated responses one can give. It is a privilege and a skill to be able to decline, but it is one of the most important self-love skills we need to learn. I am still learning to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.

What are you working on next?
I am currently working on a few brand collaborations due for release in 2023 as well as planning new artworks. Currently, I am inspired by women in their most comfortable state — what they do, what they wear, how they unwind and where they go. This will be the concept for my next series.

What are you reading right now?
I am currently rereading Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond. I am fascinated by human behaviour: why we do what we do, how we came to be, and how we function in a community and as a nation. I have read this book multiple times and it serves as a reminder of how we operate as a species.

What are you listening to?
Indie music of the 1990s and 2000s. The sounds of that era make me feel alive but melancholic, as it perfectly reflected 2022. My favourites include Death Cab for Cutie, The Shins, Weezer and Letters to Cleo.

Tell us also about Project MIRRO, which you founded.
Project MIRRO is a lifestyle label I founded to feature my designs, which aren’t my original artworks. It functions as a retail brand for my kimonos, bags, stationery, art prints and more. As a former brand and marketing manager, a lot of my skills and knowledge are related to retail and brand building. So, it was only natural for me to start my own label — something that can straddle the realms of art and retail.


Project MIRRO is a lifestyle label Miriam founded to feature her designs

Where are you looking to travel to in 2023?
I aim to head to beaches around Southeast Asia as well as mountains and meadows in Europe. Thailand, Indonesia, Amsterdam and Switzerland are at the top of my list. These places are renowned for their beautiful landscapes, people and cultures, and I hope to incorporate my travel inspirations and experiences into my work.

What is your idea of a perfect weekend?
Having brunch, gallery-hopping and going for long nature walks or a trip to a waterfall.  

Daydreams will be held until Jan 7, 2023, at ZHAN Art | Space.

This article first appeared on Dec 19, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.


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