The eye sees differently now

By Zake Prelvukaj

We didn’t know we would encounter invisible problems of this kind. Of course, when we mobilize ourselves and we find a corner of calmness in our apartment, we start to research ourselves, we return to ourselves. So, we create a different thinking and working formula, managing our instincts, sensitivity to even the objects we have at home. Now, while in lockdown, we spend more time with objects at home, regardless of what or where they are, be it the easel in the kitchen, the table where I have the computer, and I research what is happening today. So, all over the world, I think people have started to think differently, to have much greater respect for personal space, for nature, which they enjoy less and less. And I have started thinking how the world would be if it was closed down, which it would not be good, it would be very problematic to continue to stay in lockdown in these environments.

As for my art, I discovered that no matter how hard I tried to do something else, to task my art with more difficult questions, towards a different artistic approach as an artist, the things we absorb at this time are absorptions which are layered on us, in our mastery. When we are in front of the painting and the different artistic approaches that we want to articulate, they absolutely have changed at this point in time. At this point, my colors are much brighter, more intense, and more expressive.

Is it because I miss the greenery, the sea, the mountains? Lately I’ve started visiting nature and different places, but I didn’t paint with these colors. But, now, in the absence of them and of what I have experienced in childhood, I have begun to explore them, and the colors are absolutely intense and natural and are such that they put you in a better mood. It is some sort of therapy that I cannot describe with words as much as I can describe it with colors as an artist.

Now I am writing in the most philosophical and mature way, differently, what I see in this world and in these 78 square meters, and what I gain or lose from this lockdown.

I think it’s not easy, it’s a conundrum that cannot be solved, but this conundrum can only be solved by the hope that we will go back to normality, and that we will come to something that we will communicate more gently with people, we will get rid of those unnecessary burdens. It’s some sort of opportunity to restart in everything, in writing, in the way that we think and I think that we will love and respect a lot after this. I think that often from these events, different wars, economic crises, health crises, different epidemics, people have started to think differently.

But, this is not a frontal war as we once had, but a psychological war, a war to find the truth about who you are and who we are and to restart something, hopefully something much better. This is the quarantine of 2020. When we go back to this time after fifteen, twenty years, this lockdown and this way of creating and this world inside, our house will seem interesting to us. The whole globe has gone virtual and we work virtually, we think virtually and we try to live with this lockdown.

It’s very interesting, in my apartment, there’s a room that has a big balcony, and now that the weather has gotten better, I turned it into some kind of a beach where I tan. The view of the balcony is towards Bregu i Diellit [Sunny Hill], at this time, it’s very green and it’s a nice atmosphere. In the living room where the kitchen is, I have the space where I work with students online, I lecture, I hold meetings with the Kosovo National Gallery and other meetings I have with AAB College, and, of course, I use it for other work.

I have my corner in the kitchen, I love my kitchen, I cook a lot, I experiment with different things with food, just like with colors in painting and I feel happy. It’s time that comes and changes you, from the tanning sessions on my balcony when the weather is nice, you go back to the kitchen, to work. Then there’s the other balcony, I love flowers, both of my balconies are filled with flowers. Now that we don’t accept guests, none of us, it’s some sort of calmness that maybe I personally needed to have. The living room, the bedroom, where you rest, I have a TV there also, then we have Netflix where we watch a lot of movies.

In the one hour and a half we are free to move, I go to C Street in Bregu i Diellit [Sunny Hill], I go out alone and, of course, there aren’t many people, we keep the distance, wear gloves and a mask, and I see a change from the fact that we’re inside. I pay attention to every step, I see small flowers that have come out in some places, somewhere the grass is different and I analyze it. Before I didn’t look down to see what kind of grass it was. Now I analyze everything. The eye sees differently now, eagerly knowing that I will go back to this castle of mine.

Then the flowers, I’ve always planted flowers, but flowers aren’t… I didn’t take care of them daily or every other day, and now I even smell the flowers, before I didn’t have time to do that, and honestly, flowers have their own soul. I see that flowers are flourishing because I talk to them, they have a large spectrum of colors and they make people happy.

For that hour and a half that I went to the store where they sold different kinds of flowers, if I had more space, I would fill my whole house with flowers, because they make me feel happy, because you bring nature into your environment. You bring flowers to lockdown, but you let flowers breathe on the balcony. We stay close to it, but it still has some kind of freedom, it has water and food, it stays in its own corner. This analysis that I made between flowers and me had some sort of meeting point, it makes me happy and I make it happy.

On top of my apartment, I have a studio, the roof is very high and it has a lot of space. I have my finished paintings through which I can follow the continuity of the painting, of my concepts. Now I am working on a painting two meters and ten by two meters and twenty. Surprisingly these colors are all bright, these colors are something indescribable. I ask myself, “Am I like this during the times of lockdown that I can love these colors? Or do I love and miss them?” I don’t know. But, without my knowledge the painting goes on, and it is the brush and other artistic expressions through which we communicate during this time.

So, in one corner of my studio is the easel with a painting that I started but stopped, but I returned to another one and like this I go back and forth during quarantine and I research myself and I ask myself. This research makes me ask myself, “Why is this like this?” I think this a reflection of the invisible in me, but also the invisible that has locked us down. I am a quiet person, and this is the formula of life in quarantine life and quarantine activities, so to achieve being calm.

As a professor, virtual teaching was not a problem for me. As artists, sometimes we like to touch our students’ painting when we’re near. Painting should be experienced, in my opinion, in physical space. From the students I work with, there aren’t many and we do one—on—one work. At the beginning, it seemed hard because I felt bad for the students who didn’t have the supplies and the financial means. Some are in other countries, some are in Kosovo, but we still succeeded, because I had an understanding with the students. Some had the supplies, some worked with small formats, and the best thing is that we conversed outside of the syllabus.

We always had about ten, fifteen minutes during which we had a conversation. Now, together with students, we have done research in the field of national art. So, we looked into our art that is neglected. I tried to unfold it with my students, to provide a reading why it is good, what time gave to that painting. Students wrote essays. A student of mine explained his motives very well, the lockdown experience was very hard on him. They want their life to be different from what their life is now, they research in their way about their own time. It is very hard for them to be in lockdown.

As for virtual teaching, I am very content. I learned a lot about myself as a teacher, but my students also researched a lot following my suggestions, proposals I gave them. What we did at the end as a student—professor collaboration, I’m gathering different materials, different conversations, with the second—year, third—year, and fourth—year students. I have lectured them to make art, I hope we will make online art. It will be a short film with articulated voices and, with the work, what we worked on together during quarantine.

These writings that are being done at this time, and as much as we think, they don’t say anything, after a while, they will say a lot about this time, from an individual perspective, but also national about the way we managed this situation. There will be a very demanding diary about this time, but very neglected at this moment.

Zake Prelvukaj (b. 1961) is a painter and visual arts professor. Prelvukaj has exhibited her work in numerous national and international galleries, among them the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., NW Gallery in Cambridge, and the National Gallery of Kosovo. She has produced murals, mosaics, and public art, as well as hosted exhibitions and discussions through the arts foundation The New Balkan. She has lectured at faculties and culture institutions in different countries, notably the Museum of Peace in Diksmuide. In 2010, she became a full professor of painting at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Prishtina. She lives and works in Pristina.