Serwan Baran depicts a mythical creature that goes by the same name as the painting. The steed, with a human head, a horse's body, and colossal wings, looks ready to ascend. Its legs and hooves are...
SERWAN BARAN, Iraq
Medium: Acrylic and mixed media on canvas
150 x 150 cm
Serwan Baran depicts a mythical creature that goes by the same name as the painting. The steed, with a human head, a horse's body, and colossal wings, looks ready to ascend. Its legs and hooves are rendered with well-defined uninterrupted lines launching the creature into the air.
While the horse’s open wings and arched legs fuel an impression of imminent ascent, its oversized wings and robust build suggest it can withstand the ensuing journey. The creature carries a woman lying on her back, fusing her foot with its tail, seemingly ready for the trip. Atop the figure is the word 3arrij, meaning saunter or meander, written in Arabic. The word softly fades into the ochre-hued background.
This lively painting serves as a testament to Baran’s characteristic creative fearlessness. This artwork illustrates his inclination for paradoxes as the creature's eyes appear closed while about to lift off. Baran is quick to use bold colors, too. The use of a fiery vibrant red juxtaposes pitch-black wings. The broad, peaceful ochre background backdrops the disconcerting central creature. The artist also mixes a heavy amalgamation of browns and reds for the creature’s apparel and hide. These shades are reminiscent of Baran’s early exposure to clay-rich soil and ruins amidst the ancient city of Babylon.
The Iraqi-Kurdish artist is no stranger to using mythologies and animals, namely horses and dogs. Such figures represent the human condition, as in the case of Bourak. This creature is widely known in Islamic tradition as the horse-like creature or centaur that transported Prophet Mohammad to the heavens. This sacred journey led to the Prophet’s revered encounter with God. Baran’s mythical figure epitomizes a holy and miraculous Islamic experience as we are invited into the artist's inner world of fantastical imaginings. The artist conveys this experience with a hint of irony reflected through his further use of contrasting symbols. The legendary speed of the creature, whose name comes from Al Barq, meaning lightening in Arabic, directly contrasts with the word 3arrij, situated above Bourak’s wings. These are a few contradictions Baran uses to reflect the absurdity of the human condition in its struggles and hope.
Baran’s work is rife with distinctly recognizable elements attributable to his individual style. He started in the realist tradition and has since evolved into the expressionist realm. Baran often incorporates enigmatic visual imagery filled with vivid symbolism. His predilection for painting deformed and/or fused bodies is, again, apparent in the Bourak painting. Integrating figures like a man, a horse, and a woman places us in front of an unfamiliar, almost surrealist, scene. The three beings represent their respective symbols of gender, nature, and even mortality, all overlapping into transparent layers in the painting. Possibly fueled by the contortions and dysfunction of our modern-day world, the painting reflects a form of existential angst. As such, Bourak becomes a beautifully intriguing depiction of the absurdity of the human condition, cementing Baran as a truly global artist.