According to the Bible, on the evening before his death, Jesus summons his twelve disciples together for the Last Supper. During the meal, he announces that he will be betrayed by one of his followers, predicting Judas' role as the traitor. He then shares the bread and the wine as per the Eucharistic ritual and foretells that Peter will deny knowing him later that day. The Last Supper has been a popular subject throughout art history, particularly during the Renaissance period and well known examples include Leonardo da Vinci's harmonious depiction and the later surrealist approach of Salvador Dalì. Although each depiction of the scene is unique, all appear melancholic just as seen in Mehrdad Mohebali's work.
In his work, the artist explores the biblical theme of the Last supper, but adds a contemporary sense to it. Although Jesus attracts every disciple's attention in the traditional Last supper scenes, here the artist appears as the central figure in the painting, yet no eyes are on him. He is standing still, his arms crossed on his chest with a serene attitude which distinguishes him from the surrounding figures, thus making him easily identifiable. With the exception of the lying protagonist and the artist himself, all others somehow appear distracted by the books. The books are stacked up, each figure looks in one direction careless of the surroundings. Thus, the scene seems agitated and boisterous, yet the central figure of the artist remains straight and quiet. None of the figures seem to be aware of the viewer or of any other person in the scene, apart from the half-undressed juvenile figure lying on the table looking at us. Again, no one seems to notice him or be surprised in any way by his attitude and looks. But by observing the diptych closer, one is struck by the appearance of these two figures, and hence can identify himself to them and take part in the scenery.
Mehrdad Mohebali could be referring to the social atmosphere in today's Tehran, or perhaps any other city in the world, where individualism has taken over the traditional way of living and sharing. But the tree in the background is possibly evoking the roots that unite the people as well as a hopeful future ahead. Furthermore, the contrast between the classical background of the work and the style and attitude of the contemporary figures in the foreground could be alluding to the constant struggle between tradition and modernity.
Mehrdad Mohebali is part of the younger generation of Iranian artists. With his outstanding Last Supper and his more recent works, he is a leading figure in the contemporary Iranian art scene today.