Ecstasy at Aun
Lotuses, horses, humans lost in a strange utopia, devoid of time and space; Omid Hallaj’s paintings can be condensed into these few images. Hallaj depicts a universe in limbo where agony and ecstasy co-exist, where spirits engage in various rituals; all this while retaining a decidedly modern edge.
In the archetypal imagery of myths, mountains, trees, columns and sinuous vegetation fill the expanse between earth and sky and serve as means to accede to a higher world (cf. the beanstalk that enables Jack to escape to a land in the clouds). Ecstasy and the road thereto is another issue dealt with in mythology, often portrayed in the death and re-birth of the soul through a spiritual journey.
After the modern period, a number of artists re-concerned themselves with these topics. From trans avant-garde artists to environmental artists, all sought in their own way to highlight the importance of the metaphysics in both nature and the spiritual world. Painters such as the Italian Franscesco Clemente, the British Christopher Le Brun and the American Mary Frank sought to portray this universe in limbo.
Hallaj not only paints this peculiar space; he also questions it through his choice of color and symbolic elements. The strength and beauty of his works lies in how he renders this realm of ecstasy and the fresh look he throws on his subject matter. His signature lies in how he brings feelings of infinity and timelessness into the present, feelings which are present once again in several paintings of this new series. Finally, his strength also lies in his ability to address spirituality – a cliché theme in this time and era—without falling into stereotypes.
In this new series, Hallaj depicts a number of contrasts and paradoxes: delirium versus consciousness; indecision versus boldness; dream versus reality; intricacy versus simplicity; replication versus imagination; private versus public space and life uncertain of its own future. He explores the symbolism of death, the possibility of return and the secrets of our time as a fetus – themes that coalesce to create hope in a new tomorrow for the world.
This analysis may help ignite different interpretations of Hallaj works, interpretations which the viewers themselves must put to the challenge and take to the next level of ecstasy.
Tehran, November 2009