Adrian Paci


7 September – 5 November 2022

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Kalfayan Galleries (Haritos 11, Kolonaki, Athens) present, in collaboration with Galerie Peter Kilchmann, the solo exhibition of Adrian Paci titled POPOLODISENZAPAROLA (peoplewithoutwords). 



For his second show at Kalfayan Galleries, Adrian Paci focuses on the power and sociopolitical role of ‘language’. He presents a new series of ceramic sculptures as well as new textile works. The latter are woven on hand looms by a women crafts-community formated in the 1990s in Shkodër. The exhibition marks also the first presentation of a wooden work which draws from the tradition of icon-making and adds to this multilayered series of language-based works, specifically created for the exhibition in Athens. The design on the sculptures and carpets refers to artist’s drawings based on pages of notebooks belonging to Maurizio, a man with Asperger syndrome, who compulsively kept hand-written notes in an ‘enigmatic’ language of his own. When once asked “why do you write?”, Maurizio answered: “I write because this is my task” (“Scrivo perché questo è il mio compito”). Adrian Paci’s works present a palimpsest of writing and craftsmanship, an interweaving between signifier and signified, mirroring a challenging and vibrating space between what is said, what is implied and what is sometimes deliberately omitted. His multifaceted artistic practice offers a visual manifestation embracing the open meaning of words, codes and signs, of communication and interaction between people with different ‘voices’.


The artist writes about the works presented in his solo exhibition at Kalfayan Galleries:


“I have always been interested in exploring the space between what could be experienced and what could be thought; what could be thought and what could be said; what would be said and what could be written. There is always a tension in this space inhabited by attractions and gaps, charged with possibilities and impossibilities. Working with painting for quite a while, I have been exploring this space of vibration between what is explicit and what remains implicit. But there is also a space for the unwritable, for the unsayable and even for the unthinkable. Perhaps rational thinking has its limits and these are where intuition and imagination are activated. At the same time there are different ways of expression, where the unthinkable and the unsayable possibly leave their traces. The human body, for example, has its own wordless expression. In the case of a painting, expression is created through a brushstroke, a glaze, a shade, a rhythm. It is impossible to codify this kind of expression. You cannot define it but you feel its presence.


When I was invited to visit the drawing classes of the Community of Sant'Egidio in Rome, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that the community focuses on marginalized communities, organizes activities that promote peace in conflict situations and helps the poor. My first visit was at the Laboratorio di Tor Bella Monaca, one of the most troubled districts of the Italian capital, and I found myself in a classroom where people with disabilities were making drawings and paintings. Among them was Maurizio. He didn’t talk to me, but he was writing in his agenda book. The pages were full of signs; no letters, signs. They were not just doodles; a kind of rhythm and a sense of order came together with the enigma of these mysterious signs impossible to decipher. I was so fascinated by them. Friends of mine from the Community of Sant'Egidio gave me some of Maurizio’s notebooks. They told me that many of his notebooks had been thrown away by people close to him that considered these notebooks meaningless. When once asked “why do you write?”, Maurizio answered: “I write because this is my task”.


I kept looking at the pages of his notebooks. Of course, I could not understand. But there was a sense of urgency in these pages. There was also a sense of rigor and repetition. Understanding is often a way to exercise our power on something. Standing in front of these pages without understanding them was another way to relate to the traces of Maurizio; a mix of wonder and admiration. They were so concrete and precise in front of my eyes but at the same time so mysterious and unreachable. I started to copy them. Drawing these pages was a way to relate through the simple gesture of my body, my eyes and my hand. I started using a brush and watercolors, so it was not only my body participating in this dialogue, but also various painting tools: paper, water, brush, watercolor paints. I felt that there was also one more element participating to this dialogue; time. The time of my drawings was relating to the time of Maurizio’s writing. He was writing obsessively and quickly; I was meditating slowly and carefully. Then, I thought it would be interesting to explore this process using different tools and materials, different hands and different times. In this way, the idea for the first mosaics was developed and then the textile works.


Leta is a woman I met in Albania few years ago. She originally comes from the mountains in the North of the country, settling in Shkodër -as did many families- moving from the villages to the city following the sociopolitical changes in the early 1990s. Leta organized a group of women to form a small community that works with wool, producing carpets that follow the old tradition of the craft they inherited by their mothers and grandmothers. Looking at the drawings I was coping from Maurizio’s notebooks, I started to flirt with the possibility of turning these these drawings into rugs or tapestries. This way a new series of work started. From the hand-written pages of Maurizio’s notebooks to the hands of Leta and the other women working in Shkodër, from the ink-pen on paper to the wool-thread on handlooms, these signs were living other possible lives. In this process of relation and translation there is no need to define a final meaning, but to remain in this area of unfolding possibilities.


Part of this exploration is also the new series of ceramics together with the work on wood that follows the old tradition of icon-making and which will be presented for the first time in Athens. I started this series calling the work “Untitled”, but upon remembering the answer of Maurizio: “Scrivo perché questo è il mio compito”, (I write because this is my task), I decided to start calling these works “Compito” and just numerating them 1,2,3…I don’t know how long I will work with these drawings, maybe 10, maybe 10,000.


One thing that I am certain of, is that the issue of the relation between something that has to be expressed and something that can or cannot be expressed, has been imprinted in my practice, and so has also the attraction and the affection I have for all those who live in this tension and contradiction. Michaela, a woman who is deaf, once typed in the computer: “POPOLODISENZAPAROLA” (peoplewithoutwords). Maybe mine is more than just an attraction, inside of me there is one of them. “







Short artist biography:


Adrian Paci was born in Shkodër, Albania, in 1969. He studied at the Art Academy of Tirana from 1987 to 1991. He lectured in art history and aesthetics in Shkodër from 1995 until 1997, at which time he left his home country for Milan, escaping the violence of the armed uprising that roiled Albania that year. Adrian Paci’s multifaceted artistic practice includes the fields of video, photography, painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. His position as an exile holds a central place in his oeuvre. His works frequently address themes of dislocation, separation and memory and are formed by an emotional sympathy for the individual. The artist transforms existential moments of human life into stunning and timeless images.


After representing Albania at the Venice Biennale in 1999 and exhibiting at the MoMa PS1 in New York in 2005, his work has been exhibited internationally and has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions such as at Haifa Museum of Art, Israel (2022); Kunsthalle Krems, Austria (2019); National Gallery of Art, Tirana (2019); Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg (2019); Museo Novecento, Florence (2018); MAXXI, Rome (2015); Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montréal (2014); Galeries Nationales du Jeu de Paume, Paris, (2013); Kunsthaus Zurich (2010), Kunstverein, Hannover (2008) and CCA, Tel Aviv (2008) et al. Museum and institutional collections include: Solomon Guggenheim Foundation, New York; MoMA, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Fundaciò La Caixa, Barcelona; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; and Kunsthaus Zurich, Zurich, among others.