Rovena Agolli

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Rovena Agolli

Article

Pleasurable illusions, treacherous fakery

Rovena Agolli, hailed as "one of the most promising young artists in Albania" by Edi Muka, Director of the International Center of Culture in Tirana, is a painter and installation artist. Her work explores the tension between the dreams, aspirations and illusions of represented images and the often harsh reality of everyday life. At the heart of her concerns are the position of women in contemporary societies and the relation between the sexes. Since graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana, Agolli has been involved in many different initiatives and has participated in many exhibitions both within Albania and abroad. Group exhibitions include the international exhibition of visual arts, ´Onufri 99´ held at the National Gallery of Arts in Tirana in 1999 and ´We love Italy, Italy loves us´, held in Ortona, Pescara in Italy in 2000. Agolli also worked on the project Bunkerbania´ a joint initiative between Albanian and German artists, which culminated in a show at the Gallery of Contemporary Arts at the International Center for Culture in Tirana. In 2001, Agolli had a solo exhibition of her paintings in the ´Dolce Vita´ project at the National Gallery of Art in Tirana, Albania.
Rovena Agolli, hailed as "one of the most promising young artists in Albania" by Edi Muka, Director of the International Center of Culture in Tirana, is a painter and installation artist. Her work explores the tension between the dreams, aspirations and illusions of represented images and the often harsh reality of everyday life. At the heart of her concerns are the position of women in contemporary societies and the relation between the sexes.

Her work ´Aircraft´(2003) consists of two oil paintings, one of an aeroplane (220x130cm) and one of a helicopter (205x130cm). Both are prettily patterned with prints: ruby bows on lemon yellow, sunlit flowers on cyan and scarlet hearts on olive green. Incongruously feminised, the helicopter dips into, as the aeroplane lies across, the horizon that bisects flame-red earth and canary yellow-green land from aquamarine sky. The illusory zone of airspace is where imagination takes flight; the symbol of the aircraft suggests hopeful anticipation at the beginning of a journey. The aeroplane and helicopter are rendered improbable by the artist´s playful patterns, as she explains, because "though an aircraft is not the ideal place really to think, to reassess or reevaluate things, it is a great place to have the illusion of doing so, and often the illusion will suffice".

Another of Agolli´s works, however, takes us from imagined escapes and pleasurable illusions to real forms of imprisonment and treacherous fakery. ´In all my Dreams, never as quiet as it seems´ (2002) is a digital print (80x60cm). At first sight, one sees a happy young couple, sitting on a sofa together, smiling at the camera. He has his arm around her, their heads tilting gently towards each other. On a closer look, bruises on their faces and around their eyes become visible: we are witness not to scene of domestic bliss but domestic violence.

Agolli says of this piece: "Violence, especially towards women, is still a problem hanging over many families in South Eastern Europe, and in particular in my own country, Albania. Women are totally exposed to violence from men, in a macho society that seems to have turned this fact into its legacy, thus showing its most primitive side, which manipulates out of an instinctive and intolerant mentality". The family become a refuge of physical and psychological violence, for "the inability of women to erase such system, their silent acceptance of a horrible compromise, creates a fake façade of a ´happy family´." She adds, "This is the disguised and hypocritical reality of society".

A similarly acerbic irony pervades Agolli´s project ´La Dolce Vita´ (2001), which comprises fourteen oil paintings, each approximately 100x150cm. The work´s title, of course, references Fellini´s classic film of the same title, which, the artist points out, was part of the so-called ´New Realist Italian Cinema´. Recalling the iconic beauty of the film, Agolli says, "Obviously the most striking image is that of Anita Ekberg, walking in the Fontana di Trevi, with the water coming up to her knees. It´s a glamorous image that has marked an entire career and that has become the icon of a woman´s abundant beauty".

In her paintings, the artist is not interested in attempting to reproduce or compete with such an iconic image, but rather, seeks to investigate its transferral into a wholly alien, Albanian context.

She says, "We all are aware of the visual invasion of our sight by the ´super´ industry of advertisement. Most of its iconography is based on the image of a woman´s beauty, objectifying her body and her being to libidinal pleasures of the eye. But this process has gone beyond just objectifying a woman, its aim now is the aestheticisation of esthetics of a commercial product."

Speaking of this aestheticisation further, Agollli says "Rather than attempting to reconstruct glamour, \the advertising industry seems to deconstruct it into thousands of smaller bits, as if to make possible the grasping of its entirety through smaller entities, which are more easily absorbed by an increasingly non-attentive public."

Translating such images into her own work, the artist admits, "There´s nothing too direct that would shock the viewer. It´s just nice images that create some sort of transparent layer, underneath which a different non-present reality exists." And, she says, "It is by alienating this imagery and by forcefully imposing it into a context that seems the most inappropriate one that I generate the reflective stance on ironic title ´Dolce Vita´: it´s everything indeed but Dolce Vita."

Since graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana, Agolli has been involved in many different initiatives and has participated in many exhibitions both within Albania and abroad. Group exhibitions include the international exhibition of visual arts, ´Onufri 99´ held at the National Gallery of Arts in Tirana in 1999 and ´We love Italy, Italy loves us´, held in Ortona, Pescara in Italy in 2000. Agolli also worked on the project ´Bunkerbania´, a joint initiative between Albanian and German artists, which culminated in a show at the Gallery of Contemporary Arts at the International Center for Culture in Tirana. In 2001, Agolli had a solo exhibition of her paintings in the ´Dolce Vita´ project at the National Gallery of Art in Tirana, Albania.


Author: Diana Yeh, Visiting Arts

Bio

Rovena Agolli was born in Tirana, Albania in 1976. She was educated at the graphics department of Jordan Misja high school in Tirana and went on to study at the Academy of Fine Arts, Tirana, graduating in 1998. Since then she has exhibited widely in Albania, as well as in Germany, France and Italy. She now lives and works in California, USA.

Works

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

Exhibition / Installation,
2003
2001, Dolce Vita, The National Gallery, Tirana, Albania

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

Exhibition / Installation,
2003
2003 Group exhibition in the Cultural Center of Women Artists, ‘LINDART’, Tirana, Albania. 2002 Co-work in the project ‘Bunkerbania’, a joint initiative between Albanian and German artists, Gallery of Contemporary Arts in the International Center of Culture, Tirana, Albania. 2001 ‘We love Italy, Italy loves us’, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Ortona, Pescara, Italy. 2001 ‘Beautiful Strangers’, IFA Gallery, Berlin, Germany 2000 International exhibition of visual art ‘Onufri 99’, The National Gallery, Tirana, Albania. 1999 International photography exhibition ‘Marubi 99’, The National Gallery, Tirana, Albania. 1998 Group exhibition in the ‘Department Informatique’, Paris, France. 1997 ‘Welcome to Wonderland’, The National Gallery, Tirana, Albania. 1996 ‘Black and White’, Gallery of the Academy of Fine Arts, Albania. 1995 ‘Absurd Time’, Charleville-Mezieres en Champagne-Ardene, organised by L’Institut International de La Marionnette, France.

Projects

This artist took part in the following project(s) organized/funded by the culturebase.net partner institutions.

Spike Island International Fellowship 2001

(01 April 01 - 31 August 01)
images
Rovena Agolli
Aircraft
Rovena Agolli
La Dolce Vita
Rovena Agolli
Helicopter
Rovena Agolli
In All My Dreams, Never Quiet As It Seems