Hossein Maher

The Mythopoeia of Hossein Maher

By Kaveh Najmabadi

“Archetypes, in spite of their conservative nature, are not static but in a continuous dramatic flux. Thus the self as a monad or continuous unit would be dead. But it lives inasmuch as it splits and unites again. There is no energy without opposites!”
– Carl Gustav Jung

It is through myths that the ancients talked about our human journey on this earth. Mythology, as such, is the building bock of our understanding of existence and our world. The Pishdadian, for example, is a mythic dynasty in ancient Persian texts. Although all Pishdadi kings are mythological characters in Avesta and they are called “Of God,” in the Book of Kings (Shahnameh) only those kings are described in mythological terms that possess “God’s Grace.”

In the ancient literature of Iran, the death of heroes marked a tragic moment when people mourned and disciples symbolically cut their hair over the dying body of their masters. Hossein Maher does the same in his Myths series. His choice of cold colors and focused composition tells the story of a mythic isolation and stasis. Maher is capable of depicting the depth of tragedy; yet, he has an eye for the eternal. The artist realizes that the hero will be lonely during his lifetime but there is a sense in which s/he will continue life in lore. In one of his paintings we see the pain and suffering through the supine body of a women wrapped from head to foot next to a boulder. But there is a sapling growing next to the boulder as well, which points to an indeterminate future.

Through his dynamic yet bold strokes, Hossein Maher is able to summon a breeze of mythology and memory to his paintings to invite the viewer to appreciate the way our ancestors saw the world. He does that in a compendious language that nevertheless brings softness to the frame.