Culture

Edi Hila: Albania, a country of paradoxical realism

Edi Hila

"The painting should not be like the photograph, because then it is a pale copy. The artist is responsible for what he transmits", said the artist Edi Hila in the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture in the conversation with the art historian Zef Paci

"I have replaced the sketch with photographs. This is a paradoxical realism. In this case the outline was unimportant, the paradoxical situation was important. Situations that could not be found in Rome or Paris", said Edi Hila, who returned to Pristina for a conversation where he spoke about his inspiration, about the mission of art and the artist, about socialist realism and about Tallavana.

In the 90s, Albania was a country of paradoxes. A people hungry for everything, even in the first sense of the word. The collective Zallamahia had turned the whole country, from north to south, into a surreal painting. In some places factories were destroyed, in others factory machinery was stolen, and illegal constructions took off. There was no question of building permits, urban plans and other administrative issues.

In such a situation, Edi Hila could not stand idly by. He wandered around with pencil and paper in hand, he couldn't get enough of it. Chose the camera to take sketches with. The Shkodran painter has exhibited some of the shots in the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture in Pristina.

In 25 pages under the title "A4 Print", in the exhibition opened on April 16, Hila reveals his work process. While visitors have seen his paintings before, this time they returned to their base: sketching.

Hila returned to the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture on Tuesday night for a conversation with curator Shkëlzen Maliqi with students in the audience. In Maliq's absence, as it has been said, for health reasons, he had the conversation with the art historian, Zef Paci.

The university professor of Edi Hila at the beginning of the conversation showed a picture in the Bulqiza district. A "hidden" bust can be seen there. Behind the bust of a hero in the 90s a pizzeria was opened in place of what was once probably an administrative building. A pine tree had grown in front of the bust. The torso was barely visible. In a way the new coming was taking the breath of the old. Albanians learned to quickly fill the gloom and emptiness of almost half a century of communism with whatever they could.

"I have replaced the sketch with photographs. This is a paradoxical realism. In this case the outline was unimportant, the paradoxical situation was important. Situations that could not be found in Rome or Paris", said Hila in front of the students. Until his retirement, he worked as a professor at the Academy of Arts in Tirana. In Pristina, he was in front of students of graphic design and painting at the master's and bachelor's levels. But with the questions in front of him, it was easily noticeable that the students did not pay much attention to the conversation or to the exhibition. Even those who have been earlier in  exhibition.

With the exhibition "A4 Print" - opened in the Gallery of the Ministry of Culture on April 16 - Edi Hila outlines Albania's transition from dictatorship to democracy

Hila, with the calmness of a veteran professor, without imposing, has made comparisons of art in the socialist period, the importance of art in documenting the transition and developments in democracy. 

"Socialist realism failed to develop and as a result art lost its emotion", he said while revealing photos of sculptures from the Monist period where the weapon  for the partisans, it was more important than the bust or the statue. Sculptures in deep areas that fit the bleakness of life in one of the harshest dictatorships in Europe.

He has shown that he did not copy the photographs taken in the painting. They only existed as thematic subjects.

"The painting should not be like the photograph, because then it is a pale copy. The artist is responsible for what he transmits," he said.

During the communist period, the state instructions were that socialist realism was the only way of artistic expression. Those who tried otherwise suffered.

Even Hila had not escaped the "eye" of the Labor Party.

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 also 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 Decor 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.

Now another era was beginning. Artists wanted to be alienated even in creativity. But Hila was not from that way.

"When democracy came, we were eager for modern or contemporary art to look contemporary. I have not felt myself the master of it. With ours that school by making David 500 times you can't make the contemporary. I think that the solution with pictures has given me results", he said.

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. In democracy, he would roam around with a camera to document the transition that would become the basis of his works in the paintings of those years. "Paradoxical realism" is the phrase used to describe that period. He advised students to be careful about what artistic environments they gravitate towards.

"Good education is obtained by seeing good deeds. One should not listen to tallava music except for the reason of dancing", said the painter from Shkodran.