Albana Ejupi: With art, I try to visually raise emotions

A painter from Pristina who lives in Vienna, talks to "Vijesti" about her "Sadscapes" exhibition, which opened in the Modern Gallery in Podgorica, presents unusual techniques and motifs, and also talks about the art scenes of Kosovo and Austria, and her plans for the future

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Albana Ejupi at the opening of the exhibition, Photo: Đorđe Cmiljanić
Albana Ejupi at the opening of the exhibition, Photo: Đorđe Cmiljanić
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

After photographing the bodies of an individual or a couple, whether in motion or not, she chooses the most impressive of the different poses, so that the young painter from Kosovo Albana Ejupi moved on to drawing a sketch and finally to creating a unique work using special techniques, says the artist in an interview with "Vijesti".

Thus, unlike many contemporary artists who take images from the mass media and process them with painting techniques, but also unlike those classicists who paint models while posing in real time, Ejupi focuses on a living model, but through a series of photographs she makes herself , followed by drawing and a process in which he applies sand to the images with his hands or a brush, thereby creating physical spaces of perception. At the same time, by using sand from Kosovo, she says that she feels as if a part of her heritage materializes through her works, and at the same time emphasizes the symbolism of the weariness of the human body and the transience of life...

Selected works of the young artist, who has been living and creating in Vienna for the last few years, were presented to the Podgorica public in the Modern Gallery of the Museums and Galleries of Podgorica, and the exhibition will be in the space until the third of September. Conceived specifically for the Modern Gallery and the public in Podgorica, the exhibition called "Sandscapes" directly refers to the interesting technique, symbols and own motifs of sand landscapes, i.e. landscapes of human bodies...

The acts were created based on photos of models and scenes that the author made in her studio, the curator explained at the opening. Lukas Wulf (Wolf). He also pointed out that her works show the uniqueness of individual life experiences that leave traces on the models and are reflected on the canvases. The author's acts in the sand show the beauty of the human body in its imperfection, reality, truthfulness and nakedness, but also its transience.

"For Ejupi, paintings always get an unexpected development, and more and more often new paths appear that erase the boundaries between figuration and abstraction, painterly surface and three-dimensional structure, bright colors and intense brushstrokes," says Wolf.

Installation in the Modern Gallery
Installation in the Modern Galleryphoto: Duško Miljanić

Director of JU Museums and Galleries Vučić Ćetković at the opening of the exhibition, he pointed out that the achieved results and the authenticity of visual creativity recommend Ejupa to present his interdisciplinary works in the Museum of the City of Podgorica. The realization of the installation was helped by a gallerist from Vienna Lukas Feichtner who ceded part of the exhibited works.

Ejupi was born in 1994 in Pristina, Kosovo, and currently lives and works in Vienna, Austria. Through his art, he deals with the spiritual and social aspects of human nature, especially the relationship between spirit and body in which we live. It combines nudes with themes such as ideals of beauty, sexuality and love. Her works are a kind of counterpoint to digitization, social media and artificial intelligence through personal perception, focusing entirely on the genre of painting.

In an interview with "Vijesti", the young painter conveys her impressions from the opening of the exhibition in the Modern Gallery, presents the exhibition, her motives and technique, talks about the art scenes of Kosovo and Austria...

What impressions do you have from the opening of your exhibition in Podgorica, were any expectations met?

I have very positive impressions, followed by an extremely warm welcome. The gallery is modern and well equipped, and the organization was extremely professional. I also received positive comments from all the guests. The audience in Podgorica is really warm and open.

The concept of the "Sandscapes" exhibition was designed in accordance with the space of the Modern Gallery in Podgorica. What is the actual interdependence between your work and the exhibition space?

The staff of JU Museums and Galleries of Podgorica is also very professional, and I especially liked the lighting in the gallery. I think we managed to combine the lighting with my works very precisely. I think the white walls combined with the exposed concrete on the floor and the rather cool lighting went well with the works.

From the opening
From the openingphoto: Đorđe Cmiljanić

How many works did you select for this occasion and when were they created? In addition, do they somehow connect with each other and tell a unique story?

The exhibition consists of a total of eleven works, which I created during my entire career so far. So, I deliberately chose works that contain elements from every part of my creative cycle. Together with the curator Lukas Wolff, we selected images that largely contain sand, but we also focused on choosing different motifs, colors and dimensions because it was important for me to present a wide range of my creativity to the audience.

What curator Wolf emphasized as specific in your work is the presence of a living model on the basis of which the painting, or act, is created. What is your attitude towards the model and how does the creation process go?

I usually shoot first, so I have a wide variety of different poses. That selection is one of my favorite moments in the process, because I'm very excited about what I'm discovering in the photos. How a person's or a couple's body expresses itself in different poses and how emotions become visible from different perspectives. After choosing a photo that sparks my creativity, I move on to drawing sketches before starting the actual work.

From the opening of the exhibition
From the opening of the exhibitionphoto: Đorđe Cmiljanić

It could be said that the special focus is on the female body and experience, that is, the traces that different experiences leave on the body... How complex is it to present something like that in a picture?

They are not necessarily always female bodies, but they also form part of my works. When I focus on the female experience, it really becomes quite complex to visualize it. It's a thought process that's hard to describe, and I think one important aspect of the process is the range of colors I use, as well as the body shape I'm trying to portray, preferring to paint curvy bodies. At the same time, I focus on poses, which makes the picture a composition of many different aspects.

The body, physical appearance and beauty are common topics today. Curator Wolff also noticed that through your art you deal with the spiritual and social aspect of man, and especially with the relationship between spirit and body in which we live. How do you comment on today's perceptions of man, body and spirit, whether as an artist or a young girl?

This is a rather complex question, and I think it should be approached from a philosophical point of view. As the body in the simplest case can be seen as a pure object, it is quite complex to define what constitutes a "spirit". Through my art, I try to visually raise emotions, that is, to visualize phenomena and ideas that are not easy to paint, and while painting these phenomena, I use a visual lens to learn more about age, memory, love, feelings, challenges, pain, wounds and healing, pregnancy and sex.

Detail from the opening
Detail from the openingphoto: Đorđe Cmiljanić

The exhibition in Podgorica is open until September... Will you come to Montenegro again in the meantime and how satisfied are you with the cooperation?

I'm not entirely sure, but I'm definitely planning, because I'll be in Kosovo mostly during the summer. It is important to me that the people who come to the exhibition get to know me personally, and I would also like to be able to bring more people to the exhibition. As for the cooperation, I am very satisfied and I must emphasize again the level of professionalism of the staff from the gallery.

Are you currently working on something, what are your future plans?

I'm always working, so be curious (laughs). But my plans for the future are to continue doing what I love most, to explore and discover myself and everything around me, through painting. In a practical sense, I will continue to advance my career, and work to reach people, that is, to inspire even more people with my art. My next exhibitions will be in Salzburg at Hangar 7, opening on July 27th, then in Brussels, at Art Brussels from September 28th. Those are the confirmed exhibitions, but we are also working on other events this year, so stay tuned...

Albana Ejupi
Albana Ejupiphoto: Stefan Panfili

Artists in Vienna are respected, but the situation in Kosovo is also improving

You come from Kosovo, and you currently live and work in Vienna. What can you say about the art scenes of these two countries and what is the position of young people in both, is it different and in what way?

Those two scenes differ in almost all aspects, starting from the possibilities that a young artist has to build a career. Although there are many famous and talented artists from Kosovo, they almost always have to go abroad to build a career and progress, because we are not recognized in society as artists.

In a city like Vienna, the situation is the opposite, because the appreciation of art is much more widespread. Of course, money plays a huge role, as well as various institutions, galleries, events and the like. However, I must point out that the situation in Kosovo has changed for the better during the previous years, especially during last year's biennial in Pristina, which was a significant promotion of our profession.

To what extent do the status and potential of young authors depend on institutions and officials, whether in the environment you come from or in the one you currently live in?

I think I accidentally answered that question through the previous answer. But of course, Kosovo is a young country and many things still need to be established on the institutional side, while in Austria there is a very long and continuous institutional tradition for promoting and supporting young artists.

Again, the situation in Kosovo has greatly improved in this sense over the past few years.

Detail from the opening
Detail from the openingphoto: Đorđe Cmiljanić

Sand as a symbol of heritage, but also the wear and tear of the body, the transience of life

How does the technique you use correspond to the name of this exhibition "Sandscapes"?

My art deals with the spiritual and social aspects of human nature. I use different layers of colors and materials on the canvas. By using sand from Kosovo, I feel that part of my heritage is materialized through the works. I prefer to work with older people who have been shaped and marked by life. Because it is unstable, sand seems to be an adequate material to talk about the weariness of the body and the transience of life. So the short answer would be that the essence of the title is simply the use of sand in my paintings.

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