A big, real-like tongue over a toilet, a striking installation by one of the country’s most unconventional contemporary artists, Ardian Isufi, stirred a lot of debate in Albania.
This was a breakthrough work in the art portfolio of the 36-year old artist whose muse is the human being alongside his numerous psychological moments. “I like to analyse the individual on his own but also as part of the crowd,” Isufi says, explaining that both elements have prevailed in his works from 1995 until 2002, culminating to an exhibition at the National Gallery of Arts in 2002, entitled “Human Sensitivity”.
This exhibition took place in a room which looked like a hospital pavilion where one could easily perceive the myriad of human feelings and situations.
The artist belongs to the 1990s generation, the time when Albania broke away from its 50-year dictatorial regime. This gave him the chance to examine closely the transformation of the country and its people as well.
“I had the chance to be in a free but chaotic world at the same time. This helped me to experience a lot. But on the other hand, I felt really scattered,” he said. “I always use the cycle in order to define or detail artistically a stance,” he said.
Isufi is considered one of the most creative contemporary artists of Albania. With the support of his father, he was guided, as he says, by “a holy light” towards the art path. Mingled with a day-to-day work, art became an inseparable part of his life. He finished his studies at the Academy of Arts in Tirana in 1995 and soon after he served as a professor in this institution, a job he does even to date. He was ranked second in the International Competition of Visual Arts “Onufri” in 1996 and third in the same competition in 2005. This prize is named after the most important icon painter in 16th century Albania. Onufri also painted portraits, landscapes and churches.
Isufi’s art attracts attention because everybody can find elements of her or his personal history in the artist’s works. The same reaction dominated lately over his recent exhibit, opened at the German embassy in Tirana. Mixing irony and metaphor towards media, the artist displayed two big “satellites.”
“It is an international urban sign telling people not to trespass the zone. I used this sign to show that the individual is constantly a hostage of the media, of the communication and information. It was a real thought-provoking piece because it ironised the way the media brings the news to the people. Even the position in which this work was installed had a lot of impact: just in a narrow corridor and high above the viewers, like the media dominates the people all the time,” Isufi said.
Currently the artist is dealing with two projects. The first has to do with a series of sculpture installations “which constitute the culmination of my view on the human being.” “All these installations convey extraordinary messages to the individual about life, death, harmony and disharmony.”
Parallel to this, Isufi is experimenting with a series of paintings that have to do with the nation’s history, its near and distant past, religion and monuments as a myth of communism. “In this context, I have presented a big, abandoned monument in the Tirana International Contemporary Art Biennale. My painting is a relic that paradoxically co-habits with some capital which speaks and refers to two different periods of time: to the ancient time which was valuable for our country and to communism which brought more harm than good to our country,” he said.
In his view, the painting fits well together with the place where the Biennale is being held: Hotel Dajti – once one the most grandiose hotels of Albania, built by fascist Italy in the late 30ies, and used for many years during communism as the only place where foreigners were brought, but where no Albanians were allowed. Now it lies looted and vandalised in the middle of the city, screaming for transformation “like many things in our lives.”