Born 1945, Tripoli, Libya
Ali Omar Ermes is internationally renowned for his paintings based on Arabic literature and letterforms. Ali Omar has held over sixty exhibitions worldwide, with work displayed or housed in the collections of institutions such as the British Museum and Tate Britain, London; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg; State Museum of Oriental Art, Moscow; Wereld Museum, Rotterdam; National Gallery of Jordan, Amman; State National Gallery, Malaysia; Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC; and LACMA, Los Angeles, among others in international public and private collections.
Ali Omar is also a reflective writer whose articles have appeared in numerous publications in both English and Arabic. More recently, he has drafted a number of conference papers and delivered speeches in the UK, Europe and the Middle East on subjects such as identity, human rights, education, art and the media. The issues Ali Omar discusses in his written works are also the driving force behind many of his paintings, as he believes that the role of artists and thinkers is to communicate topical cultural and social issues to audiences through various mediums of which art is but one.
In 1970, Ali Omar graduated from the Plymouth School of Art and Design, after which he went on to study at the Central School of Art in London for a short period of time. Upon his return to Libya, he took up photography and headed the visual arts section of All Arts magazine. In 1974, he returned to Britain after being appointed as a consultant to the director of the World Islam Festival, held in London in 1976. During this time, he travelled extensively, meeting various artists, writers, calligraphers, museum officials and dignitaries throughout the Islamic world. In 1975, he went back to Libya, writing for further publications as well as continuing his travels and exhibiting his artwork. In 1981, he settled in London where he lives and works today.
Ali Omar's paintings can be classified into three main compositional groupings: works which focus on a single letterform, those which comprise a series of words or phrases, and others which employ the aesthetic volume of Arabic letterforms as visual rhythms and patterns in both contrasting and harmonious interactions, often set against backgrounds that utilize a combination of multi-coloured dimensions. In the first group of works, Ali Omar cleverly balances the overall composition of the painting by placing short excerpts from literary or poetic texts – which concern social and cultural issues – in a smaller script next to or around the large central letter.