with the artist Zinni Veshi
interview published by the newspaper "Shqip" 01.18.2010
Krenar Zejno: The significance of an artist, is it related to what the artist conveys in a painting, or rather, to what he wants to express?
Zinni Veshi: Undoubtedly, the significance of an artist is related to the result of his work, at least for the moment, and to what he achieves in his painting. His work – the point where he arrives at – mirrors his subjectivity in whole, and it has a greater reach than in the case when it is simply the testimony of his desires. His desires, in any of their forms, are very well defined, very well outlined, and they become from the start, an obstacle for the artist, because he will aim from the beginning toward where he wants to arrive. Before even starting to paint, he knows the outcome. Thus, it becomes a form of thinking and operating which is very predetermined, restrained and rigid. The other case – when the artist painter is identified with what he arrives at in his work, makes you think that the result of his work is not only the outcome of his initial ideas, but also of the phenomena occasionally encountered along the way, spontaneously arising during the progress of the work; the work and the endeavor of painting become more complex and enriches itself endlessly. A work of art built this way has no last station. It is more like an endless spiral of layers of work, which has just been interrupted at a certain moment; the work becomes a “painting-process” that reflects the way it was created, and at the same time it becomes a testimony of “what happens along the way”.
It is like an enraging avalanche which catapults in dimensions as it rolls down its path.
K.Z.: When does a painting reach that moment of fulfillment, where all its constituent parts
establish some sort of peace, if not definitive, at least a truce?
Z.V.: When Jackson Pollock was asked how he knew when his work was done, he answered by asking: How do you know when you finish making love? It is truly a difficult moment to describe. During the painting process the artist can get very close to his work, losing the necessary distance between himself and his artwork.
It is hard to explain. It remains a phenomenon that does not have much to do with the intellect, and is more of a byproduct of the world of sensations, feelings and intuition.
K.Z.: It would seem that literature is created from the exchange, from the encounter, from the peace and from the travelling together of words, that furthermore expand, stretch, lift, divide, and converge again somewhere and so on… Painting?
Z.V: This endless and intensive game of elements is the essence of painting, it is its heart-beat, and, more importantly, it constitutes its abstract underlying stratum. It is like a battle where everything is against everything: color against color, line against line, shape against shape, the paint against everything that violates its nature, the figure against whatever that deforms its form and so on. It is rather a Homeric battle where the dead rise from the dust and fight again; they shove, strike, bite, wrestle each other, violate their own space: distort, exaggerate and change their configuration in the most impactful way. It looks like a voice screams from the pain in the bottom corner of the painting, and a heavenly song arises on the other side; a war trumpet splits the sky on the left, and a transparent veil falls to the ground on the right; sobbing and lamentations can be heard coming from the background, whereas an out laud laugh bursts out on the foreground. Everything happens before us, on a shallow space. Everything is repeated endlessly under a Gothic rhythm that gives you the sensation of a heavenly symphony; everything is repeated indefinitely under a Romanesque rhythm, which gives you the feeling of a grotesque structure. This is the endless repetition of elements with a double life.
K.Z.: Different epochs revisit and repeat the dispute between: the making of the artwork - full of double life elements, and the settlement with the reality in order to decipher, declare, advertise, even sell it materially. Art after its birth belongs to the administration and to the mechanisms of reality, with whom in fact art is in broad opposition.
Is art, especially painting, in recent decades the derivative from this collision, or is it a by-product of a deeper and more pessimistic crisis?
Z.V.: It could not be otherwise. The work of art and the reality are two completely different worlds. First of all, in the human reality prevails the average, in art there is only place for quality, and possibly the highest. Secondly, the artwork is profoundly creative and always operates with new elements and new combinations (the unknown is highly sought after); the reality of people is more oriented around the repetition of well-known structures- preferably without any surprises. Thirdly, the work of art has little or no utilitarian purposes. In human reality only functional objects make sense. Moreover, the problem becomes more difficult with the art of painting, which is harder to understand, and more than often misunderstood. Things change drastically from the standpoint of a particular individual, - with him art takes on meaning and becomes indispensable. Individuals with a predisposition to understand and feel the art work, who are cultivated and have experience in this area, have a psychological and spiritual need for the art of painting, for its clamorous silence, for its radiance full of mystery. These individuals become the homeland of the artist. Only at this point the artist is not lonely anymore in the middle of the desolation of the human desert. His great loneliness has for environment only this thin layer of individuals, with whom he enters into relationships, and discusses the ideas of his time. Among them it becomes possible that the spirit of time is expressed and shaped. Only this way great art can come to life.
The opposite happens with its commercialization. Art, under this new sky, is no longer the highest expression of the magnificent symphony of its time, but is a mere subject of the marketing idea: supply and demand like any other commodity. Art is now one of the many objects of human reality. It is not any longer a special and unique occurrence in life. Now everything is art, and everybody is an artist and can become famous for at least 15 minutes. Art is now stripped of its essence and its fundamental characteristic: its ruthless exclusivity. Now it has become inclusive, allowing the mediocre masses free entry. This is characteristic of our time: the relocation of art outside of its nature, which means its death. In a way Art has been devoured by the mundane.
Today’s crisis in the world of art is much deeper and more serious, than it would have been by just the collision of two worlds with nothing in common. The real horror is the fact that the average being today is a successful artist. Only at this point pessimism has no limits; the situation seems hopeless, life becomes meaningless, boredom colors everything, and banality rules everywhere. On the other hand, for talented artists it is a favorable time to create true works of art. Today's talent has much to build, combine and choose from the rich legacy of art, created by generations of great artists of the past. From this point of view the time in which we are living is extraordinary and unique to create real art.
K.Z.: I have had the chance to see how you proceeded in your work, from your early paintings, which seems to me, from our common childhood, like a retrospective exposition, and at the same time, like real-time observation of their development. What appears to me inexorable and unchanged is a core that connects to a growing body of work.
Painting has a life of its own and the painter tries to help it to appear, or the painting takes care to reveal and sublimate on the canvas the painter's life? The artist paints his life, or gives life to the art of painting that was born with him?
Z.V.: They are both true even though contesting each other. Naturally, the artist paints his life, his subjectivity, his psyche, and the events, the ideas, and the phenomena that occur inside him. At the same time, he experiences, and revives the Art that was born with him. Both create each other: the artist's psyche enters the realm of art, understands and respects the laws of this world, and at the same time exerts its influence by coloring them with the mood of its uniqueness - it is like the sun sinking into the ocean. It is equally true that the art of painting has its own dimensions, its own universe, and cannot be used simply to illustrate the artist's life. The artist-painter's mission in life is to understand and help this world come to life, attain the fullest and the greatest heights possible through an extraordinary work and dedication. From this point of view, the life of an artist is an infinite sacrifice, unending work and desire, intense effort and indescribable epiphany. His world is hot and icy at the same time, like a volcano at the bottom of the ocean. However, in the most absolute fashion, the artist-painter shapes and revives the painting that was born with him, originally just a seed, but with the innate possibility to grow and to become like a universe in itself.
K.Z.: The Work titled Snapshot constitutes a development toward a less figurative painting and less descriptive art form, as it relates to previous works of yours that look like the essence of the narrative is to preserve more. It is the case that clarified more for me the observation made by Picasso: "There is no abstract art. One must begin always with something. Afterwards one can remove all semblance of reality;"
Z.V.: De Kooning has expressed this way the eternal paradox of the painting: "(Painting) has no meaning without (figure), and it has no meaning with it". At the foundation of the building of art lays the great and unsolvable contradiction of contrasting elements. Anyone who has found an ultimate solution has committed suicide. The only solution is the cohabitation of the conflicting constituents. During the process of painting there are wonderful moments where everything stands with each other, there are moments where everything vibrates together like a magnificent symphony. There are two tendencies in my paintings, which are in constant struggle with each other. The first is the trend towards an absolutely abstract painting, and the second is the desire for the figurative (the human figure in particular). The abstract layer generally expresses itself through three components: the chromatic structure, the movement of the energy around the painted surface, and the quality of the medium. These three factors have an abstract nature and are sufficient to build an art work. All three of them constitute the trinity of the abstract painting. The fourth element, the figure, comes from a different world, and from other dimensions; it is inserted into the shallow space of the picture plane. By its very nature it is not abstract, and along with three other factors, constitutes the fourth element of the painting, or rather, the communion 3 + 1. These are two different orchestras that try playing in the same gamut. So, images are schematized and rendered more geometric to best suit the abstract construct of the painting. In this way, it has become possible that the relationships between them to not be expressed through the narrative, but through formal means of expression: color, line, shape, form, composition, and by the contrast in their countenance. In fact, it is not the figure who tries to take its place in the haptic space of the painting, but its expression enters into relationship with the movement of the energy that spreads all over the painting's plane.
K.Z.: However, there are kinks in the terminology, in the inchoate attempts at conversation, or conceptualization that surround painting. Perhaps another time would be needed to clarify more the inclusion of this perceptual capture of the "haptic space", or the problematic ambiguity of the term "background" in Albanian and the insufficiency of the exact correspondent "sfond" etc. However, let's find a formal way to talk about this ratio in the life of a painting, and hope for a guest house conversation in the future.
Z.V.: The form analysis of an artwork is the most important act after its creation. Firstly, making possible these analysis by the artists sheds light on elements, relationships, and structures that come to life spontaneously, accidentally. The fact that these factors (which come from the dark areas of the artist unconscious) are understood by the intellect, is of incalculable value to the artistic development of the painter. Secondly, equally vital is the expression, articulation, and communication of this acquisition. Making understandable the formal problems of painting requires a highly specialized language, a rich vocabulary with lots of options, and specific terminology. The more these conditions are achieved, the more creative and interesting will be the explanation of the painting form. Thirdly, during the formulation process of painting, new ideas emerge which become nourishment for future work. Specifically, in the art of painting, relationships between foreground and background are the basis for the creation of pictorial space. The way and the formal tools which create this space determine the character and type of the work. In our case the word "sfond" suggest somehow the optical space that takes place deep across the picture plane. But it is missing the world for the foreground, and it is very unfortunate because it is very important for the optical relations of the painting. In English, these relationships are expressed through the words "background - foreground". Unlike the pair: "parasfond - sfond" that suggests the optical feeling of space, "background - foreground" expresses more the physicality of the phenomenon, and characterizes more a haptic space type of the painting. As it is known in modern painting the plane of the canvas is the limit of the space; in other words, the space develops from the posterior plane (background) toward the front plane (foreground). In Albanian language, this phenomenon can be expressed by the relationship that takes place between the basic plane and the front plane. In this way, it better meets the requirement for a haptic space and the characteristic qualities of the medium applied.
In this claustrophobic space are squeezed all the formal elements used by the painter. In this tight area is pressed the whole universe of the artist. In this shallow space takes place all the modern drama. The same phenomenon also occurs in literature. Doesn't Joyce, in his Ulysses, bring the entire history of humanity to the foreground? Everything takes place in the light of the present, not in the depths of the past.
The development of painting's criticism will also bring the development of the language and of the terminology used for its explanation. This is a development that cannot be solely achieved through individual efforts, but rather through total participation of intelligent individuals from different fields: science, philosophy, literature, music and painting. Just talking about art, commenting and analyzing each other's work will make it possible the development of quality criticism. At the same time, it will create the necessary artistic environment greatly needed in our time.
K.Z: So be it! Thank you