Interview: Valentina Gelain & Bekim Hasaj
Luca Curci talks with Valentina Gelain & Bekim Hasaj during THE BODY LANGUAGE 2021 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space and at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
VALENTINA GELAIN. Valentina Gelain, born in Italy in 1992, is a young visual artist currently living in the city of Vaasa, Finland. After completing the master’s degree at Brera Academy of Fine Arts, in Milan, she moved to the far north and founded, in 2018, Black Box Genesis® and the Art Space for which she is the manager. She often works under this name with the artist and partner Bekim Hasaj. A recent example is a mural designed and made in collaboration with the city of Vaasa, in the summer of 2020.
In May 2021, they will also have the pleasure to participate in the first edition of the Mural Rural Festival. Valentina is the ‘house artist’ of Malakta ry, a Finnish cultural and artistic association, and also part of the board. Recently she has become a member of G.A.P. (Globe Art Point).
“My strongly evocative art is characterized by a marked self-referential spirit. I’m always careful to plumb my inner self and, from there, that of others, to reproduce it and almost impress it in the works. The fundamental theme of my art is the ‘Sentimento Panico’, that subterranean, almost visceral desire to connect with the natural element, merge with everything that surrounds us. What transpires from my works is a desire for evasion and, at the same time, for reunification. In my most recent production, the symbol of the androgyne has emerged, as a voice for the inner fluidity that allows us to interact with ourselves and the environment in a dynamic and ever-changing way. Another recurring theme in my art is the unconscious; that suggestive latent world that dwells within every human being. There is a color that I often use to reproduce this coordinate-less, chaotic and primal space: the Black. My upcoming project “The Grey Hour”, highlights how you can relate emotionally to the environment to express yourself and your mental, emotive states. It is an intimate encounter and dialogue with oneself, played with shades of grey and, paradoxically, with beauty and harmony, which want to give space and light to mental issues that are often still victims of taboos in today’s society. Multidisciplinary and enterprising, I explore the means of communication and use the medium that will best allow me to express a concept and make my vision come true”.
BEKIM HASAJ. Born in northern Albania in 1990, I started my approach to art at a very young age through drawing and painting courses during my childhood continuing in a more conventional art education in high school of Arts in Tirana (capital city, Albania). In 2010 I moved to Milan, Italy, and started studying at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera where I graduated with full scores in Visual Arts, Painting (Bachelor). During the years of my studies and beyond I had the possibility to experience a close working relationship with important International artists such as Remo Salvadori (Transavanguardie) and David Tremlett. I feel to mention them in a particular way as they influenced my future art. In 2018 I and my wife moved to Vaasa, Finland, and founded the art space and studio Black Box Genesis. It was an important moment for us as artists to be in the position of curator of different exhibitions and art events with local and international artists and collaborators. From that point, till now I continued my work as an artist and used the space as a platform for personal art projects too. The privileged subject was undoubted ‘humans’, in all its many and fragmentary facets. Over the years the painting has undergone a slow but incessant process of evolution, traceable in the transition from expressionism to abstractionism. At the moment I am looking for a closer dialogue between art-object and the surrounding environment, between color and concept, in search of a new artistic balance.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Valentina Gelain & Bekim Hasaj – The next and upcoming projects we are working on will be both individual and in team. Bekim Hasaj is working on the painting project “Scanning Landscape”, granted by Svenska Kulturfonden, in 2021. The project aims to create a visual analysis of the landscapes of the Ostrobothnia region and the relationship that it has with the community. Valentina Gelain, between spring and summer 2021, will focus on the production of “The Gray Hour” art project, which includes an art film, documentation and photography. The project, granted by Svenska Kulturfonden and Svensk-Österbottniska Samfundet, highlights how you can relate emotionally to the environment to express yourself and your mental, emotive states. Furthermore, the artists will participate in the first edition of the Mural Rural Festival, organized by Malakta rf in May 2021. They have also got funds to create a public artwork with recycled books from the Lafkan antique shop in Vaasa, now officially closed.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
VG & BH – Our background is for both of us in traditional visual arts, such as painting, drawing and illustration. But now we are very multidisciplinary and open to experimentation. Undoubtedly, an experience that has marked us is having opened and managed an art space.. being able to see another reality linked to art and to our world. It’s also always stimulating to know and collaborate with other artists.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it like your medium of expression?
VG & BH – Some common subjects of our poetics are: color (investigated materially, symbolically, metaphorically), experiential subjectivity (as a starting point for our research), and introspectiveness, linked to existential themes. Yes, it is our medium.
LC – What is your creative process like?
VG & BH – Regarding the collaborations between us, they have been various and of different artistic nature: from performance to public art, up to the video language. We are both active from the design steps to the production/realization phase, even if, sometimes, one (Valentina) can be more absorbed by the concept and the other (Bekim) deals with the practical aspect. There are a strong understanding, compensation and support between the two sides.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
VG & BH – The concept of the exhibition (the title) was stimulating and also very multifaceted, thus leaving the possibility, in a single event, to bring together artists with different languages, backgrounds and mediums.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
VG & BH – “L’occhio del nibbio” is the first video experience for the Black Box Genesis artists. The team wanted to experiment with this medium, with the stop motion technique, for the Terminal (a contemporary reflection inspired by Leonardo da Vinci) exhibition cycle. Taking the name from one of the most famous inventions of the Master, Valentina Gelain and Bekim Hasaj used the bird as a metaphor for change, for the need to move, sometimes, to survive. Move as many artists do in order to give hope to their vocation, having to follow the right current flying towards their destiny… a destiny that only the death can conclude.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
VG & BH – Unfortunately we couldn’t attend the event physically, but through social networks and website you can have a clear idea of it.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
VG & BH – Yes, everything went smoothly, with good vibes and the staff has always been helpful, clear and punctual.
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
VG & BH – Not in particular.