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Minas Halaj

Minas Halaj is a contemporary figurative painter who has exhibited across the United States, especially California, consistently since 2004. Recent solo exhibitions include features at Ren Gallery in Los Angeles and Main Street Gallery in Walla Walla, Washington. He has participated in numerous art fairs in London, Hong Kong, New York, and Miami. Minas’ works remain in over 20 public and private collections including the Mark Rothko Museum in Latvia. Notable accomplishments include awards by the California cities of Calabasas and Los Angeles. 

The paintings are either straight oil on panel or oil with mixed media such as incorporating gold leaf, dated fabric, or even tar. Floral Minds remains the title of these series of works which often include florals and butterflies which seem to grow inside and around figures. While the paintings are clearly representational, they are often integrated with designed backgrounds which could be paintings within themselves. The designs range from swirls to almost resembling abstracted typography to just mere scratches of paint or gold leaf. Coming off ultra refined and smooth, the works contain almost no visible brush strokes, resembling painting techniques of great masters such as Raphael or some of the Pre-Raphaelite painters of the 19th century. Although using classical techniques, the compositions and backgrounds behave more like pop art and art deco designs rather than the traditional approaches applied to the figures. 

If the viewer pays attention to the attire of the figures they may notice a range of astronaut suits, contemporary formal attire, Victorian-era attire, and even punk styled outfits. The figures appear to be seemingly at play with the audience whether from closing one eye in a ‘peak-a-boo’ expression, taking selfies with cell phones, frolicking with birds in hand, or interacting with popular culture related icons like a can of Coca Cola or a balloon doll of Mickey Mouse. In regards to the eyes, most of the figures have one eye unrevealed whether from flowers and butterflies growing from or covering the eye or the figure blocking the eye with their hand. What could be the meaning behind portraying only one eye revealed? As Paul Klee once said, “one eye sees, the other feels”, perhaps Minas could be alluding to emotional representation or repression. 

Butterfly # 7 (top of article) remains Minas’ star painting. The gaze of the woman towards the viewer makes direct eye contact with a calm but focused expression. The other eye remains covered by a butterfly with her lip covered by a smaller butterfly in a position in which appearing almost like a lip piercing. A subtle and heavily muted pastel background creates an appealing design resembling almost like the layout on a deck of poker cards. She appears to be wearing a stylish futuristic outfit with post-modern earrings and a voguish combed-back hairstyle. The woman has a sense of interesting, unusual as well as striking character. Fashionably attractive and her eternal gaze with her heavy eye-liner aqua-colored eyes locks with the viewer in a timely engagement. 

Minas Halaj creates pristine, clear works yet full of metaphor and indirect nuance. The highly refined, polished veneer represents a bridge between Raphael-type classicism with a contemporary designed twist. These intrepid designs form from a gifted imagination of interpreting the human figure with deeper purpose beyond just pure representation. In time, these works will be viewed as priceless interpretations of the contemporary figure which give tribute to both the Victorian era past as well as postmodern aesthetics and flattened avant-garde design elements.


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