Street artists want to paint a brighter picture of life in Kosovo

In Pristina, street artists are creating paintings meant to motivate, inspire, and set a hopeful tone for the post-conflict country.

Just a few steps away from Mother Teresa Boulevard, a maze of side streets features walls that are covered in artwork.  From realistic stenciling depicting a young child launching a toy rocket, to a long, jean-clad leg with a giant sneaker at the end , there is a lot enjoy.
Pleurat Spahiu is a graphic designer who has dabbled in painting murals and other forms of street art.  His most recent work was commissioned by the European Union’s office in Kosovo.  Funded by the project “Culture For All” Pleurat’s proposal was one of the three chosen to be created in Pristina.
Spahiu painted faces on the small concrete pillars that line the street in Pristina’s center, which he called “Sidewalk Protectors”.  Modeled after his different childhood heroes, some of the faces included Bruce Lee, Superman, and an Apache Indian.  The 11 pillars also featured several ethnicities.
Not all of the art in Pristina is government sanctioned.  Most of the designs and murals are done independently.  While painting on the walls is illegal, there is little done to stop it from happening.
“It depends which building you choose”, Spahiu explained.
Much of the graffiti that peppers the walls of Pristina is politically motivated.  The recent election spurred the creation of stenciled propaganda.  Phrases like “BLEJ SHQIP” (buy Albanian) and “Unë votoj, Ti voton, Ai/Ajo voton, Ne votojmë, Ju votoni, Ata përfitojnë” (I vote, you vote, he/she votes, we vote, you vote, they benefit) were painted on the walls to encourage support or denounce a political agenda.
Spahiu said the political propaganda should not be categorized with the different paintings and murals that accompany it on the walls. The majority of street art produced recently was created in the interest of beautification.
“The youth of Pristina are trying to make the city more colorful.  We have very talented young people,” he said.
Taulant Qerkini, Jetik Doli, and Genc Neziri are young artists striving to create beauty in places where it is rarely present.  Unlike the common practice of tagging or writing on the walls, these men paint works of art that are for the enjoyment of the viewer, and convey something about the direction society should be headed in.
Qerkini (also known by his tagline TAK) 23, is a graphic designer.  He met Doli 22, who studied architecture at the University of Pristina.  Since then, they have established a network of likeminded artists who they are influenced by and sometimes collaborate with.  Neziri 22, studies graphic design at University of Pristina, and is one of the most recent additions to the group.
In an effort to beautify and to inspire Doli and Qerkini occasionally work together on their murals.  One of them is a lively and imaginative piece depicting a woman’s face with her hair swirling all around in every color of the rainbow.  One of the paintings Doli created sits on the side of a train station.  It is a playful cartoon-like portrait of a smiling man with a flower growing out of his head.  Many of Qerkini’s pieces depict words using vibrant and complicated patterns of geometric shapes.  The art that they have created offers a refreshing alternative to what is already on the walls.
In the past, the majority of graffiti around the city was made up of negative sentiments regarding pre-war tension and political struggles.  According to Albert Heta, co founder of Station – Center for Contemporary Art Pristina, there is less graffiti now than when he was growing up.
Heta said that political knowledge is important but saw room for other kinds of art.  He said “I think society should be politically aware, but we should create space for various social activity”.
Doli doesn’t think politics need to be any more prominent than they already are “Everybody already knows everything”, he explained.
Nita Qahili, 22, studies graphic design, philology, and English language at University of Pristina, and is the executive director at her family’s art gallery, Galleria Qahili.  She said that young people are divided about the future.  Some are positive thinkers and are striving to move forward and make changes.  The other side has more of a negative perspective and doesn’t try to fix anything.
Qahili said that most of the art she sees around Pristina is positive.  To her, “Art is about seeing something beautiful.”
“Street art has a lot of colors, and colors can give a totally new atmosphere to that place, and usually those things make people happy”, she explained.
Qerkini, Doli, and Neziri reflect this positivity in their artwork.  Oerkini described their postwar outlook,  “We’re not going into that deep black hole”.
One of the best known pieces of street art in the city was painted by M. Chat, a French artist whose paintings can be found in cities all over Europe.  His signature smiling yellow cat stands two stories tall on the side of a building, right in the center of the city.
Qerkini was not particularly fond of the placement of the cat.  Pristina’s street art scene is still up and coming.  He said that local artists could have used such a prominent and large space, rather than an artist who has already acquired so much of a following.  He asserted that the artwork instead “should be something that inspires, something that sparks positivity.”
Young artists like Qerkini, Doli, and Neziri are passionate about their work and want to spread their optimism to the masses.  The positivity in their art mirrors the enthusiasm of the up and coming generation of Kosovars.
“There are really good times coming up” Qerkini said, ”so you have to make sure you stay focused on the bright side”./KosovaLive/
Street artists want to paint a brighter picture of life in Kosovo Street artists want to paint a brighter picture of life in Kosovo Friday, July 25, 2014 Rating: 5
Powered by Blogger.