"Trails" through the art archeology of Valbona Zherka

"In a way her work is meditative. She herself sometimes calls it archaeological, in search of something which sometimes she finds and sometimes she doesn't", is the description that Vesa Sahatçiu, curator of the "Pathways" exhibition, gives to Valbona Zherka's art. A definition like this is not only concerned with concrete works, but with the process of their creation. Zherka, the pioneer of textile art in these parts, is exactly that: an archaeologist in art who works in silence this time "speaks" through her art

"Trails" by the pioneer of the textile technique in the visual art scene in Kosovo, Valbona Zherka, is a combination of her creativity over the years. There is a harmony between the textile and her paintings, but with the selection of fourteen works the work process is also broken down. Her art appears as a free journey, which draws fragments from the artist's life that build her artistic narrative. Her activity comes out as an unfolding of different problems, the threads connect the identity elements, especially in those works that focus on the Albanian woman. This interweaving is also found in the very selection that the artist has made to build her artistic opus on the textile medium, based on the fact that weaving and working with wool are old practices of the artisanal activity of Albanian women.

Art lovers of Pristina at the opening of the exhibition on Wednesday night had the rare opportunity to experience her art with the presence of the artist herself, in the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture. It is the second exhibition this year in this institution.

Hanging from above, the tapestries of Zherka catch the attention of visitors upon entering the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture as a display of unique motifs (Photo: Shpend Maliqi)

Hanging from above, Zherka's tapestries catch the attention of visitors upon entering the Gallery as a display of unique motifs. Together with the curator of the exhibition, Vesa Sahatçiu, the exhibition is built from several different cycles, as the author herself decides to divide her activity. The first cycle is "Hope", which includes "Towers" and "Towers of Endurance", compiled from 1978 to 1980. The second cycle "Those" unfolds the works from 1980 onwards to conclude with the third cycle " Journey" started in 1999 and continues until the artist's newest works. But, alongside the tapestries in the exhibition, there are also paintings that communicate amicably through colors and motifs, which, despite the disparity in terms of the time they were created, follow an aesthetic line. They are characterized by shades that resemble the colors of the earth and abstraction as a form of expression.

Zherka's extensive opus seems to have been a separate challenge for the curator of the exhibition during the selection of works for the exhibition.

"The work process was a bit longer, because Zherka has a wide opus with many works, therefore the selection process was more difficult. My focus has been on her cycle called 'Journey' and then on other cycles. The choice of upholstery has also been challenging, since the upholstery is exceptional. The collaboration has been wonderful. It is an honor and a privilege to collaborate with him, to curate and handle his works and works", said Sahatçiu.

In addition to tapestries, the exhibition also includes paintings that communicate friendly through colors and motifs

Zherka completed her studies in painting at the University of Pristina in 1977, to continue her postgraduate studies in Belgrade, in the class of Milosh Bajic, which she completed in the 1980s. It was precisely the academic education that determined her artistic language and the choice of tapestry as artistic medium, despite the fact that he never broke his loyalty to painting.

Zherka's process-oriented focus is mainly about the physical act of weaving the tapestry, taking into consideration the great effort of creating each piece from start to finish, along with the naturalness of the process, which is conceived in the work of art. through passion and freedom of artistic expression.

"The way she treats this medium is an unusual treatment of tapestry, such as working based on sketches, Valbona herself is involved in the process, in her work she herself does not know what has come of it. In a way her work is meditative. She sometimes calls herself an archeologist, in search of something which she sometimes finds and sometimes doesn't," added the curator of the exhibition.

For the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture, this exhibition is considered very important and a good opportunity for all art lovers to see Valbona Zherka's work up close.

"For me, it is very important that the artist Valbona Zherka has agreed to be part of our program. It is very important for the new generation and us as a Gallery with figures like Valbona who have worked in silence more than they have been exhibited. It is important for all art lovers, researchers, to see Valbona once again in the wider context of the exhibition", said Dhurata Ramosaj, coordinator of the Gallery. Silent Zherka was also at the opening of the exhibition. He refused to speak.

Artist Valbona Zherka (left) and curator Vesa Sahatçiu at the opening of the exhibition "Journeys", on Wednesday night, in the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture (Photo: Majlinda Hoxha)

The activity of its caliber for the creative collective artistic opus of Kosovo also has artistic heritage values. Her work and that of her contemporaries in different artistic mediums is considered as a school in itself, which for young artists serves as a point of reference and inspiration.

The artist Vlora Hajdini, who bases her artistic activity mainly on the figure of the woman, sees the role of Valbona Zherka in the scene of visual art in the country as breaking barriers.

"It is a pleasure for all of Kosovo that Valbona Zherka is representing her work. She is a pioneer of tapestry, we also call her a souvenir of our civilization and culture. In addition to presenting her work and being proud of it, it is good for the younger generations to see what heritage we have and to realize that there was a time when pioneers of art like Valbona and many of her contemporaries were women, who they broke the barriers and came to light with their art and ideas", said Hajdini.