Edi Hila

Albanian painter Edi Hila has created a vast and important oeuvre which has recently been subject to reappraisal, but which art history has not yet encased in concepts and frames of reference. During his studies in the 1960s, Hila experimented with deformation. In 1972 he painted The Planting of Trees, a pleasant picture rendered slightly unreal through the use of colors. Because it departed from the social realist doctrine in force at the time, the painting was used as the pretext for sentencing him to a re-education camp. There, he made only drawings, and didn’t return to painting for good until the 1990s. Along with the social transformation following the fall of Enver Hoxha’s dictatorship, he became an influential teacher, a key figure for the generation of artists debuting after 2000.

In his paintings, Hila developed a special kind of realism. On one hand it is based on keen observation, sensitivity to transformations of the visual sphere, and on the other hand attempts to convey the emotional side of the phenomena he observed. In several paintings, the artist depicts the transformation as an unfulfilled promise to ensure comfort, to satisfy all the shortcomings of an impoverished society.

Hila carefully selects the themes for his painting series. They possess the strength of authenticity of everyday observation as well as the universality of the existential principle. In his version, this strips the transformation in Eastern Europe of accident or adventure and gives it the weight of distilled general truths, as if he were its final chronicler. One of the reasons for such radical reduction may be Hila’s leaning toward classicism, a fascination with Renaissance sources of painting. It is as if modernism has evaporated from his field of interest and there are no dilemmas of modernity. This is why the transformation, in collision with the classical tradition of painting and balance understood in the distant spirit of the Renaissance, conveys so clearly the disruption and attack on harmony and order. On the other hand, it is rooted in human dilemmas that are hard to conceal, even with a veneer of modernization. What sets Hila’s series apart from the countless artistic reports from the transformations in the region is his skill at reduction of the image, which never slips into reportage—reduction to a fundamental presentation revealing the emotional complexity of unlimited possibilities and the chaos they cause.


J.M., K.R., E.S.


1944, Shkodër / AL
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