// Annette is based in Nice, France, where she uses her photography to document life beyond postcard views and to celebrate the beauty of people in everyday activities. During her photo walks in Nice, Annette often runs into the plein-air oil painter Omar Logang. With his permission she portrayed and interviewed him at work.
Although she studied anthropology and cultural linguistics, it is not exotic views, but the normal web of cultural significance and personal events that attract Annette. She often walks the streets of her adopted home town Nice with her camera. Annette says that she immediately understood the essence of Omar´s art and his fundamental driving force when she set out to interview him. “Light will tell” Omar answered when she asked when and where they could meet. “You are a photographer, aren’t you? You’ll know”, he said.
“There is no surer way of evading the world than by Art; and no surer way of uniting with it than by Art.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
What draws you to art?
“Art offers room for my mind and soul to move freely and thus to hopefully grow. A huge part of joy for me is the fact that it throws off the shackles of utilitarianism. It is not meant to be useful or profitable, but to allow us to enjoy it, to step back from everyday life and consider things from a different perspective. It opens doors to encounters that would not have been possible otherwise.”
What impresses you most about the artist and his works?
“When Omar paints, he is in his very own bubble far from the rustle and hassle of life all while open to anybody to interact with him. My fascination went to his utter concentration combined with his openness to the world that attracted me to him as an artist before I got interested in his paintings. It is a privilege for me to observe the making of art and to interact with the mind and soul behind.”
Like Annette, Omar loves the Mediterranean light and blue hues of the Southern French Riviera. What Annette captures in her photographs, Omar tries to show in his paintings. Omar was born in Juba, into a Sudanese artistic family of sculptors. “Nobody could live off art in Sudan back then, but art was and is an integral part of life. The strict divide between art by profession or passion, or the distinction between art and craft do not really make sense in the culture I grew up in. The quest of aestheticism and the pleasure of transforming any kind of material into beauty endowed with meaning are an integral part of life,” he told Annette. Teachers at secondary school spotted and nurtured Omar´s artistic talent. He ended up moving from Khartoum to study fine art at the National Institute of Fine Arts in Tetouan, Morocco. When the Sudan became embroiled in a civil war, Omar left and obtained asylum in Spain, where he also founded a family and eventually became a Spanish citizen. Omar often lapses into Spanish to talk about la pintura and luz and the difficulty to paint verde (green) whereas azul (blue) has all his favour.
Omar likes working in oil paint best. The thick, heavily textured paint reminds him of his childhood pleasure, the artistic feel of modelling clay. As long as he can put up his easel outside, Omar enjoys painting light and life around him. Light and blue in fact changed the course of Omar’s life when he discovered Nice as a tourist in 2003. His eyes and face glow with excitement recalling his first stroll on the Promenade. Every wave of the Mediterranean changes the hues of the Mediterranean, creating an ever changing mosaic of light and blue. His favourite months are from October to March when the sun shines without the brutal sparkle creating crushing contrasts in the hotter months.
Illustrious artists before him have followed the call of light to Nice – Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Raoul Dufy or Paul Signac. Edvard Munch, best known for The Scream (1893), also experienced lighter moments in Nice, painting Night in Nice in 1891 – actually the painter’s first work to be exhibited in a museum. Matisse praised “the tender, mellow if sometimes dazzling light” of Nice (letter to Charles Camoin, 1918). Omar prepares his own canvas and gets his oil paints from a boutique that already supplied Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and Chagall – Peintures Franco, founded in 1900.
Things are a little less glamourous for Omar for the time being. The material has a cost and the art market is not doing very well with the Covid-19 pandemic shaking up the world. Although Omar’s work has been exhibited in prestigious galleries like the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, art has a price that not many can afford right now. Omar regularly sells some of his smaller paintings on the Monday flea and antiques market on Cours Saleya in Nice. He has even had to deal with a fine for purportedly “obstructing” the promenade with his easel. “But,” he says, “that doesn’t stop me from painting on the Promenade. People often stop by to watch or chat. And a fine doesn’t stop the sun from shining.”
This painter’s philosophy is light flooded and brightly coloured. If ever you pass through Nice and wonder where Omar is – don’t forget. Light will tell.
Images may be cropped for layout. Click on the photos to see the full image.
ALL PHOTOS © ANNETTE LANG
The text for this story is largely from Annette´s own words and her interview with Omar. To see more of her photography visit Annette´s Instagram page. You can also find out more about Omar on his website.
Annette has used the following sources in her research on artists in Nice:
- Personal conversations and interviews with Omar Logang in Nice (17 December 2020, 11 and 18 January 2021).
- Andrews, S. (2020). Les peintres de la Méditerranée, Paris : Larousse.
- Benvenuto, A. (2009). Petit traité des peintres paysagistes de la Côte d’Azur au xixe siècle, Paris : Serre édition.
- Giraudy, D. (1998). Le pays de Nice et ses peintres au xixe siècle, Nice : Academia Nissarda.
- Matisse, H. (2014). Ecrits et propos sur l’art, Paris : Hermann.