Culture

"A4 Print" outlines Albania's transition from dictatorship to democracy

A4Print outline

In the early days of democracy in Albania, energy was fierce. Along with it, the lesson to move forward in architecture and what not. In such a situation, the artist Edi Hila, instead of papers for classic sketches, grabbed the camera and taught the subjects that would turn into paintings (Photo: KOHA)

In another circumstance, the sketches would be quite common in the journey to the realization of a work of art. But not even to Edi Hila, the well-known Albanian artist. His sketches, as separate works, become artifacts of the transition of communist Albania to democracy, in a strange kind of transition. The sketches are not only documentation, that's where the aesthetics lead as a kind of response to what catches his eye

The sketches of great artists can sometimes even run parallel to the works. In these parts, the exhibition of sketches has started to come to life in recent years. Beyond the conventional side of paper in hand and a pencil where the artist makes those marks that have provoked him in front of a subject that can later be transformed into a work, Edi Hila has acted differently. 

In the early days of democracy in Albania, energy was fierce. Along with it, the lesson to move forward in architecture and what not. The idea for development boiled especially in infrastructure.

With or without a construction permit, who wouldn't split their heads. 

In such a circumstance, the artist from Shkodran, instead of papers for classic sketches, grabbed the camera and taught the subjects that would turn into paintings. Now apart from sketches, prints in A4 format are documentation. Even artifacts. 

In 25 pieces exhibited in the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture in Pristina since Monday night, under the title "A4 Print", Hila reveals his work process. While visitors have seen his paintings before, this time they returned to their base: sketching. 

Hila – one of the most talented realists around here – comes up with the '90s photos. Next to them there are lines, notes and illustrations. The subjects, which are usually new and old constructions, have tempted the painter to transform them into paintings. He has also brought two such to show the derivative of the photographs. His wanderings with the camera together with the realization in painting constitute double works. Framed photos are separate works alongside paintings. 

Hila – one of the most talented realists around here – comes up with the '90s photos. Next to them there are lines, notes and illustrations. The subjects, which are usually new and old constructions, have excited the painter to transform them into paintings. He brought two more to show the derivative of the photographs (Photo: GKM / Majlinda Hoxha)

In a simple description, Hila can be considered as a chronicler of the Albanian transition. He would have been a good chronicler of the period of monism, but they didn't let him. Born in Shkodër in 1944, Edi Hila graduated from the Institute of Fine Arts in Tirana in 1967. From 1968 to 1974 he worked at the Albanian Radio and Television and as an external lecturer of drawing at the High Institute of Arts. 

The painting "Planting Trees" in the early 70s would become the subject of a fight between him and the authorities of the time. Initially in the professional and student circles and later in the political dome, the work where people simply plant trees would be described as "a departure from the national values ​​of art and a tendency towards Western art". With this work, the power in the Fourth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Party of Labor of Albania would be dealt with. But the scenography of the 11th Festival of Albanian Radio and Television - an edition that cost most of the organizers with punishments for western approach - caused Hila to be sent to the re-education of time. He worked from the Pularia of Tirana in Laprakë to the Decoration Company in Tirana and the magazine "Horizonti". At the end of the 80s, he returned to his profession, and in the 90s he worked as a painting professor at what was the Academy of Arts. It was in these years that he made the sketches exhibited in Pristina. 

"It is an illustrative title of the photographs of the time when Albania passed from dictatorship to democracy. Then, of course, new situations were created in terms of landscape and figuration. It was no longer the former landscape, but it was also enriched in architecture and daily life. All the more so that at that time people wanted to build, to do something new. People had an inexhaustible energy at that time," said Hila. He would make this specific moment for himself by wandering around with his camera. 

“Photographs cover quick sketches when we've got material with sketches in hand. When this material becomes a painting, it loses its connection with photography. It starts with an A4 and ends with a painting", he said. In transition, Hila wouldn't mind switching sides like many artists. It didn't have that complex. 

"I have retained the same reflexes and skills I acquired in school. I said that I know how to do it and that I don't have to switch to another aesthetic attitude", he said. Modesty does not let him feel comfortable if he is called a chronicler of time through paintings. But his photographs convey a rare poetics of the period when they were taken. It can be seen that the intention to build in democracy was as strange as it was an outpouring of an energy trapped for decades under monism. 

The curator of the exhibition, Shkëlzen Maliqi, says that in this case it is about an unusual public appearance. 

"All the more so since the paintings have already been seen in prestigious galleries and biennials and reflected and commented on in books and catalogs. Then, when it is known that the models are color photocopies saved on plain paper for ordinary documents, one could say that they are copies of copies of copies, with a great distance from the original", he says in the curatorial text. But, according to Maliq, it is the opposite. 

"In the ontological order of the conception of images, the A4 format papers have an almost primordial status in the recording of the phenomena presented in them, realized through a process where the eye, the brain, the focuses of the frames and the moments of the shots of the camera in the hand of the artist constitute an ingenious chain of creative staging with a view of Albania, as a country with a very surprising transition", wrote Maliqi. According to him, there is a perhaps unintentional compatibility of Edi Hila's practice with the theories and practices of world conceptual art that has been affirmed since the middle of the 20th century. final creation, to the idea and concept that is conceived in the brain and soul of the artist. The concept is primary because only at that stage art stands out with pure creativity, as a source of incorruptible chastity and sincerity compared to the status that art has in the contemporary world, where it is valued first of all as a work realized and framed as a painting, or other artefact, since apart from the ideo-aesthetic values, it is also subject to the market and monetary value", wrote Maliqi. 

Hila's reflections are to some extent the reflection of an artist who does not give up being a chronicler of social developments. In his modesty, he does not like to be described as such, but in reality he goes beyond the chronicler (Photo: KOHA)  

Hila is also described by his compatriots as an artist with high sensitivity to social events. Such is the case in the eyes of art historian Zef Paci. According to him, Hila has found the unusual and the strange poetry of a country in transition. 

"Now these photographs do not serve as auxiliary objects, but as artifacts. It is the technological footprint of printing along with its notes and colors. Now they have gained a dimension from the folds, no longer being a simple print, but within the frame it creates a sense that seems to complain about a transition", he said. Hila's works, which carry considerable weight in the history of Albanian art in the last century and the beginning of the current century, have been exhibited in various European countries. Fragments of the transition were also taken there. 

"When democracy comes, he reinvents himself as a very specific and sensitive artist who reflects and is one of the artists we are proud to be among us," said artist Mehmet Behluli.

Hila's reflections are to some extent the reflection of an artist who does not give up being a chronicler of social developments. In his modesty, he does not like to be described as such. But in the works he has worked on, he goes beyond this.