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In his novel, ‘The Alchemist’, author Paulo Coelho recounts the meeting between little Santiago and the old wise man who suggests that “In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left you.”

OMEN is the current exhibition at the Lower Galleries at St James Cavalier, Valletta. Artist Darren Tanti, from Zebbug, is presenting a set of large paintings which touch on reality through hyper-realism.

With a conspicuous technique in painting through layers, Tanti achieves photo-like figures which, at first glance, seem familiar. Each figure might actually be yourself or your next-door neighbour – the old, blue and torn denim shorts, the Kinnie bottle and the Till Late and Urban Jungle bags are all reminiscent of a Maltese context and set the visitor into such a frame of mind.

On a second look, we discover a reference to biblical themes such as the crucifixion and Samson and Delilah.  A beautifully rendered male figure, with missing sexual organs, is crucified with what seem to be the national flag and that of the Holy See, whilst the young lady with voluptuous breasts met her fate amongst her shopping spree bags. Are they the two convicted thieves? Is the central figure of the older man in Jewish sidelocks, and the unused power socket, representing a wounded or dead religion?

Questions do pop in front of the three crucified characters, the iconic representation of the fashionista girl, the muscular figure of the tattooed guy and the four gossip girls with their halos (who feature proudly on the cover of the exhibition catalogue). Which reality or fantasy do they represent? From which past do they come or else, to which future do they project?

Featuring in the catalogue are reviews by three main protagonists of the contemporary Maltese art scenario. Vince Briffa starts off by highlighting Tanti’s quest at “depicting the fragile reality of today’s realism”. Raphael Vella asks questions in a bid to understand an Omen which “instead of foretelling a future incident, pushes the ‘here and now’ into a past time by deconstructing history and religion through a contemporary lens.” The final review by Austin Camilleri tackles the duality within the works; photographic truth as opposed to ambiguity. He finally compares Tanti’s intense working research to the way “fashion photographers use their digital corrective software”.

Just as omens play a key role in the unraveling of Santiago’s fate whilst reading Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’, OMEN is in itself a key to unravel the artist’s research of a true but yet unknown, personal and social destiny.

The exhibition will be on, till the 17th of June.

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