Containporary

Curator/EXHIBITOR Maksut Vezgishi, Pavilion Of The Republic Of Kosovo. Earth is Home / The role of urbanization is to create sustainable environments that bond humans with Nature and it is part of planetary biodiversity. Hence, this is the noblest mission of architecture. Global urbanization is in expansion: population growth, constructions of megastructures (housing, economy, communications, etc.). The process involves countries and societies where every decision—making has a global impact, thus lack of sustainable planning places Earth at risk. The most acute issue is the global warming crisis. We lack the awareness and coordinated actions in order to avoid the effects of climate disaster. Today we learned that no human action can be viewed as an individual anymore.

Can repetition become an aesthetic gesture of reacting to the past?

One finds it difficult to frame the multi-layered practice of Vigan Nimani in a sentence, which draws a line between life and art—without differentiating the two. Although painting is considered to be his main medium, Nimani is a musician (member of experimental/ improvisation band Tetris), a cultural worker (co-initiator of Kino Armata foundation) and an arty cafe manager (which is an extension of his studio, second home for his paintings). Since early 2000’s, Nimani has been an active figure in his hometown Prishtina, shaping art and culture scene through various engagements in Kosovan capital.

The artist graduated from painting department of Prishtina Academy of Fine Arts in 2006 when art education was highly conservative and the country had very few means of infrastructural possibilities for art and culture. It was very difficult for many Kosovans to connect with the rest of the world, if not impossible. “I did not learn anything about contemporary art at the academy, but from friends, sharing few available materials and sources we were able to find, reading and discussing them together” says Nimani, recalling his time at the academy. It was after graduation that the artist started to work on a long term series of paintings which depicts Kosovo’s modern architecture heritage, leaving behind abstract landscape paintings he used to produce as a student.

Nimani paints architectural figures into canvas in a realistic style, fascinated by modern architecture’s aesthetic beauty. Minimal lines, faded colors, cropped frames and a dreamy atmosphere all build the aesthetic style of his paintings. The artist has a unique methodology; he takes photographs to transport onto canvas, or uses found imagery to source his paintings. Most of the scenes depicted in Nimani’s paintings come from books published in Yugoslavia during the 70s or 80s, which portray the overwhelming architecture, landscape and nature of Balkans. Also striking, however, is Nimani’s unusual preference for cropped compositions. The artist never portrays a full narrative; instead choosing a single detail with which to arouse the curiosity on the viewer. Separated from symbols, or time references in the original photos, the artist paints architectural elements and human figures isolated from their habitat, to create a timeless atmosphere. It is this conscious choice which enables him to focus on the aesthetic value of these buildings, rather than historical or political references. His interest in modernist architecture or old photos doesn’t stem from nostalgia, but their aesthetic value the most, particularly fading colors. And this is part of what makes Nimani’s paintings liberating; they are not mere representation of the former East, but have rather timeless and placeless look. Viewers can find an easiness in relating to them, despite their site-specifity. The artist’s minimal visual language, free of overabundant symbolism, also mediates the experience.

Now, however, Nimani’s work is taking on new meaning. After taking photographs for more than a decade, the artist owns an archive of hundreds of images which document Prishtina’s rapidly changing appearance. His paintings also mirror the city’s urban transformation. “In the 70s and 80s Prishtina was rebuilt, replacing traditional architecture with modernist buildings. Today, something similar is happening. Some of those buildings which I photographed don’t exist anymore. They are slowly disappearing and we are losing a part of our cultural heritage” says Nimani. And yet, it is in this destruction that Nimani’s paintings become a form of artistic resistance. Through repetition of painting figures from the past the artist refuses to allow their disappearance from collective memory. He rather points to their very existence. And thus such a gesture becomes an active, constructive manner in relating to past, passing beyond helpless nostalgia.

Even though the artist meant to make his work timeless and placeless, today his paintings suddenly become an archive for a very specific time and place. However, Nimani welcomes these two realities that coexist in his paintings. “Today when I take photographs, I’m also aware of their documentary function. I never imagined the same for my paintings, but still, it does not mean that they don’t have documentary characteristics. This is left open for the viewer, beyond my intention. Some people get inspired from their technical aspects, some from apocalyptic, alienating atmosphere. For some, it raises attention toward socialist architecture and aesthetics of that time. And this is exactly what I wanted to achieve through my paintings – to be not explicit in any way.”

2020, Hamburg