The National Art Museum of China is showing a precious collection of oil paintings from the National Gallery of Albania until the end of this month. Selected from the 4,355 pieces of the gallery's trove, the exhibits, a majority of which are portraits, provide a glimpse into the evolution of Albanian contemporary art.
Entitled Vision and Express, the show is chronologically ordered, with works starting with the period of the icon Saint Spiridon through to recent years.
Among the selected works are those created by the most established Albanian artists, including Kol Idromeno (representative work pictured below left), Zef Kolombi, Sali Shijaku and Guri Madhi of 1960-70s, to current artists, Gazmend Leka and Najada Hamza.
With their unique characteristics, the Albanian artists show a diversity of techniques on portraits.
Either with plain pigment scheme, or cursory treatment of impasto, the portraits reflect the various painting schools of the past decades. In abstract or realistic styles, they capture the expression or characteristics of ordinary people.
Orjon Shima's oil on canvas, Adam, portrays a melancholy little boy whose hair curls on his forehead. His deep-set eyes reveal innocence, while the tightly-shut mouth shows his persistence.
Religious figures also appear among ordinary faces. An exquisitely executed chancel painting (pictured below right) is arranged side by side with an abstractly finished work named The Holy Face. The solemn bearing of the bishop on the left is echoed with the indistinctive image under the randomly arranged brushstrokes on the right.
The technique of collage is also employed by the artists. In Hamza's self-portrait (pictured right), the head is replaced by a cloth-made cat, the foot implied by a pair of silk-made shoes. Vertical broken stripes, which serve as the part of body, connect the head and feet. Albania, a country of southeastern Europe, has a unique culture and art scene different from that of other European countries. The majority of the Albanian population is Muslim. Under the rule of the Ottoman Empire for nearly five centuries, the artistic form was greatly influenced, by mosaics and mural paintings. In 1912, Albania declared independence, which ushered in radical change in fine arts circles.
In Albania's contemporary art scene, socialist realism is in vogue, with the emphasis on portraying real people and everyday life.
Influenced by impressionism and expressionism, contemporary Albanian artworks mainly feature portraits, realistic scenery and landscapes. The new generation's artistic styles convey modern messages with strong national themes.
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, until Jun 28.
Address: National Art Museum of China, 1 Wusi Dajie, Dongcheng District.