* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).
Adi Haxhiaj (Tirana, 1989) studied at Accademia di Brera (Milan). His work was featured at National Gallery of Arts (Tirana); MAC – Museo d’arte contemporanea (Lissone); PAC – Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea (Milan); Palazzo Grimani (Venice); the Painting School of China Academy of Art Hangzhou (China); Galleria Fab – Galleria Miza (Tirana); Galleria San Fedele (Milan); Villa Contemporanea (Monza); Assab One (Milan); Dimora Artica (Milan); Yellow (Varese); Edicola Radetzky (Milan).
Could you tell me about your latest series of works Studi dal vero?
The work began roughly when I decided to live in the studio that a dear friend of mine offered me. I have never had a studio, so the fact that I suddenly had one was very exciting to me to the point of making the studio the subject of my painting. Studio di J.L.S.H.J. (2015) was the result. Unfortunately, a painting always provokes another and thus began the vagabonding, which still continues, within other studios. Of friends, acquaintances, but also strangers.
In which way does this last series differ from the previous ones?
First of all, in my recent works the canvas, which for me is the place of the apparition, is put in front of the subject and painted in that same environment. The difference with the previous series, is the more systematic approach in the O.T. (2014) where the scenery surrounding the object is documented through photography, a model to which I turn subsequently during the procedure of painting, far away from the place of the sample; empirical in the Studi dal vero, based on direct observation and without filters of the world.
When we saw these works you lingered on how this observation is influenced by the perspective and the use of ‘masks’.
Another important aspect is the matrix in which the image fits. As matrix I do not mean the surface where I lay the painting (fabric, wire mesh, toilet seat, etc): matrix is the form in which the painted image is manifested on the surface of things, it is on top of their skin, like the bark is over the trunk, like the coagulated crust over the epidermis. In the O.T. the matrix looks liquid, which derives from the puddles of water. The found object reflects, just like water mirrors, what is outside. On the contrary, in Studi dal vero, the matrix originates from gaps, intended not only as missing parts in a fresco, but also as the wrinkles on the skin, like gaseous spaces, escape of vapors in the Vecchia lavanderia vicino Binckhorstweg.
You prefer a particularly procedural approach to painting.
I use a heterogeneous method when realizing my works, proportionate to the means. In Ricordanza (2012), a photographic memoir of the present, the process is antecedent and follows a rigid evolution. The photographs are processed daily and archived always at the same way. As this is a work in progress, between individual and collective memory, I established some rules that allow it to continue without hindrances. Another discourse regarding painting. It escapes any hypothesis. I limit myself to only defining a few pre-pictorial practices such as the construction of the frame, the preparation of the substrate, the choice of the matrixes and their spatial arrangement, ever-changing methodologies. The preparation is exactly aimed at getting ready to paint, but once started, the painting reveals itself in a perpetual evolution in front of the things and every action is unpredictable. If it wasn’t this way I would stop painting immediately.
Is there any kind of sense of your work to be found in your biography?
I had a happy childhood despite the atmosphere in Tirana in the 1990s. I used to spend my days in the treetops in the company of many friends, in that wonderland which deceives the time as children. Learning to see is the longest apprenticeship of all arts, said Edmond de Goncourt, and this practice starts when we are babies. The falls, the thresholds to cross with unconscious courage, the transparency of the leaves revealed by the sunlight. His eyes so similar to mine. The child is a creature that sees the openness, even if only for a moment. The desire to evoke that pure space is always present in my work, and this image is undoubtedly linked to my childhood.
Dis the practice of daily vision somehow change since living here?
Life in big cities requires a change of vision with which we must unfortunately or fortunately deal. The incident is always lurking. Jokes aside, what I care about most is not simply seeing what surrounds me but feeling the world with eyes. This involves a qualitative and not quantitative approach. The time transforms everything and the view of that child is certainly changed but there are images related to my childhood that will remain inside of me for my whole life.
And are there contemporary artists that you follow, or do your inspirations necessarily come from the past?
I linger on those that have overcome time and fashion. No contemporary artist has managed until now to give me the push of Mantegna. Even Michaël Borremans, which I think is an excellent artist. There is nothing nostalgic in these words addressed to Mantegna, it’s not a tribute at the foot of a monument but only an investigation into something that hasn’t ended and never will end.