Massimo Ferrarotti - Light as Steel - Skira
Helidon Xhixha’s art represents both continuity and a turning point on the international artistic scene. The technique he uses, his choice of materials and the original idiom he adopts in his work make this young sculptor an heir to the great tradition of the second half of the 20th century (a tradition that originates with Richard Serra and takes us up to the creations of Anish Kapoor) as well as an indefatigable researcher and innovator.
The hardness and resistance of steel – a material that has been used frequently in the sculpting process over recent decades – are molded by folding it, turning it inside out and marking it. These processes allude to a sort of play through which the artist confronts the most exacting of all challenges: giving shape to light through the constant lodging of small imprints that make up the work itself.
The idiomatic research of Helidon Xhixha is unravelled within a set of opposites – the hardness of steel on the one hand and the evanescent elusiveness of light on the other – which leads to an experimentation that is never self-referential.
To the contrary, it survives upon a constant dialogue with the necessity to create opposites and let them vibrate in a process that aspires to make them coexist asymptomatically. What is configured here is what we could define as a lyrical recomposition that draws its conclusions exclusively through the impossible albeit necessary reconciliation of the opposites.
All of Helidon Xhixha’s creativity revolves precisely around two themes: his desire to capture and sculpt light through an intervention upon the material and the necessity of making opposites coexist.
What are the declinations of these diverse exigencies? The artist stamps his mark on the material with the utmost precision and with a violence that is halted one second before the point of breaking. Just when the twist stamped onto the steel is at its tightest and it would seem that the material will shatter under the thrust of such a gesture, we realize that the bends and twists the steel is submitted to finally liberate all the possibilities of expression it possesses: and this is when we partake of the magic, witnessing it gush forward from that violent creator in a solidified spurt of the purest energy that interacts and dances with the light – the representation of the stylistic entity of these works. It is only at this point that they “yield” and converse with the world, embracing it and reflecting external environments, colors, opaqueness and brightness.
Whether the solitary uprightness of these works allude to a relationship with the Divine or whether they speak to us through the audacious folds of a red wall panel, the fascination that light wields is what is engraved upon the style of an artist who loves to match himself against it.
Jill Thayer - ArtDistrict
The way we see things reflects our perception of the world, as the cultural confluence of social and environmental forces inform it. Berger writes, “We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves.
Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.” Such is the power of illumination and reflexivity that emanates from the work of Albanian sculptor Helidon Xhixha. His artistic influences inherited from his father, and a quest for innovation nurtured through studies at Kingston University in London and Brera Art Academy of Milano forged an early ascent into the realms of contemporary sculpture.
In Albania, Xhixha was isolated from the outside world as he notes that coming to Milan was “a breath of fresh air.” In Durrës, formal training in figurative and graphic art was de riguer, but once exposed to the discourse of Modern and Contemporary Art, he embraced a freedom of expression. Xhixha expounded upon his knowledge and techniques as a sculptor in London’s vibrant metropolis as he developed his methodologies in Murano glass and stainless steel sculpture.
His work in steel draws upon the practicum of traditional constructs and the quintessence of experimental processes producing a commanding oeuvre of abstract and non-figurative forms. The power of light is captured and transformed using the artist’s unique interventions in manipulating the material to embrace the surrounding environment.
Giulio Bergellini - Energie
I am pleased that the Museum hosts this important exhibition on HelidonXhixha’s artworks.The Museum Magi ‘900 keeps on displaying the work of artists deeply rooted in our contemporaneity, showing a particular interest for international artists.
I became interested in material such as iron and steel because of their endless potential. Xhixha is an artist able to bend the metal in admirable forms for meeting his personal aesthetic requirements.
Augusto Palermo - Sculpting Declinations
An artist of unquestionable talent needs to have one extra requisite: To be the reflection of our own passion for art.
Could there possibly be a better choice than a sculptor like Helidon Xhixha? I have learned to never ask artists what they are trying to convey with their work…and so I promptly ask myself the same question. I saw the mirror of the world in his reflecting sculptures and was thrilled by them. The works of Xhixha embrace the reality that is reflected in them and offer it to each one of us, leaving some space to our imagination. As far as form? I had yet to see dynamism in minimalism. A sheer oneness of reality and dreams is Xhixha’s gift to us.
Vittoria Coen - Energie
In Helidon Xhixha’s sculptures, the hardness and strength of iron are bent to the meanings of a nature that we would define erroneously unfit, if we didn’t know that its true property consists in its potential.
The sheet steel gets lively because its shape is bent in imminent and unstable ways, but, at the same time, it is so measured in its complexity and irreplaceable organic unity. There is a special limpidity in these surfaces born of a demanding technique, a revealer of their potential. The lighting effects and cross-references are frequent, as well as the wise and unusual reflections of the steel, tempered by the transformation from a solid to a liquid state, and vice versa.
By distorting the material, Xhixha achieves a rich structure and an increase in the number of effects. He adapts plasticity to the pressing pace of a will that wants to roam freely in a prospective boundless field of action. And the gesture is not a mere casualness, whether genuine or presumed.
It is a constant frequency modulation, a sort of a well tempered harpsichord put to the test, which doesn’t exclude the surprise, considered as a value that doesn’t damage the project’s method but, on the contrary, strengthen it.
Rosy Fuga De Rosa - Energie
Helidon Xhixha, an unconventional artist who explores beyond the use of the same old materials and themes and unveils new realities and forms. An investigator of “alternative paths” on the artistic scene, he plays with the light reflected on the metal he works with such skill and mastery – he is an artist who knows his material thoroughly.
There is more: he unites the power of light with this material and imprisons it, transforms it by using “special effects” to set it free. His are steel diamonds that confirm yet again how incredibly important the rapport between art and light actually is. Contemporary art, be it conceptual or informal, is often difficult to grasp but this is never an issue with Xhixha because I have noticed that everyone stands captivated in front of his work.
Everyone enters the “magnetic field” it exudes. Even the most distracted visitor stops to observe it, intrigued and fascinated.
Francesco Poli - The Molding Power of Light
Helidon Xhixha is a member of this new generation of sculptors. He had deepened his knowledge and the practice of principal sculptural techniques in his father’s studio, at the Academy of Arts in Tirana and at Milan’s Brera Academy.
He has continued to focalize his personal quest in an original direction ever since. His definitive choice is creating sculptures in steel as his field of action and has found fresh and ingenious solutions. He has succeeded in finding a path which finds its roots in part within the modern tradition of non-figurative sculpture – iron sculptures in particular. But most importantly, his art has a very contemporary identity due to the diversity of his creative processes resulting from his artistic exigencies that feed directly upon a cultural sensitivity that is rigorously contemporary.
As far the basic influence of the masters of modernity is concerned, aside from the pivotal importance attributed to the matter of the sculpted form as an autonomous fact, Xhixha has made certain aspects of great prominence his very own.
First of all, the emphasis placed upon the aesthetic tension derived from the relationship between the physical expressiveness of the materials used and the effects of light. Such is the case in Brancusi’s polished bronze sculptures which have influenced so many artists such as Arnaldo and Gio Pomodoro. The reference is significant, even though the materials differ and there are no direct stylistic connections.
Xhixha’s sculpture reveals unique innovative characteristics all of its own: Special moulded-luminous effects derived from an energy-charged way of working the iron; a process of folding and molding the sheets by twisting them with a detailed, thriving delivery of curved concave and convex undulations that project and cave in. These works are created with tools from garages and body shops. The first impression is that of apparent confusion, immediately counterbalanced by the clear perception of evocative aesthetic tension. It is from here that the peculiar quality of the expressive strength of these works comes to life: there is a daring yet refined and ambivalent game played between random twisted shapes and a well-gauged flashing volumetric harmony.
The artist makes strategic use of the effects and surprise – depending on the circumstances – although the artist’s intervention is relative within an artistic process that never gets out of control. I mentioned volumetric harmony and the adjective “flashing” to suggest the fundamental role played by the reflection of light in perpetual motion, animating and modulating the folds on the steel’s surface with astounding effects that catch the spectator off-guard. It could be said that the sculptures by Helidon Xhixha – even if they were created to represent nothing more than what they are – and their complex aesthetic vitality become inexhaustible sources of imagery and reflection.
Filippo Del Corno - Councillor of Cultural affairs,
City of Milan
On Milan’s behalf, Helidon Xhixha has created an interpretation of Leonardo da Vinci’s
The Last Supper, one of the icons chosen to represent Milan during the final month of the Expo in Città initiative. Xhixha’s sculpture, Everlasting, a modern-day revisitation of da Vinci’s masterpiece, welcomes all visitors entering or leaving the city through the so-called “Gateway to Milan.”
Xhixha’s work joins the many other projects aimed at encouraging a new appreciation of da Vinci as a symbol of the Expo and as an emblem of Italian creative genius. Everlasting is the sixth exhibition to find a home in the spaces curated by the Milan Airport Authority (SEA). SEA has permanently set aside these areas for exhibits of art and creativity, a feature that makes Malpensa unique among the world’s airports, and Everlasting reinforces the significance of this space at the “threshold to the city.” As a gateway to Milan, Malpensa provides visitors with a first impression of the vitality, creativity, and cultural richness they will encounter in Milan.
Luca Beatrice - The Rock
Xhixha is certainly one of the most interesting sculptors on the contemporary scene, and his work has made its mark in recent years for the originality of the artistic sign and the way the material has been worked. He has used steel more than anything else, modeling and exploiting its reflecting surface, which absorbs everything that surrounds it, duplicating and multiplying every image it meets in its path.
He has placed his great sculptures in the old center of Matera, on the Island of San Servolo in the Venetian lagoon, and at Palazzo Madama in Turin, and he has recently been warmly received by the international public of London. He is clearly an emerging artist, much appreciated by the critics too. It would have been easy for him simply to make a selection of his finest, best-known works and place them in one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. But Helidon is a man who loves challenges, as we can deduce from the picture that emerges re-invent himself. I met him in Pietrasanta while he was working on his new pieces. Together we entered the belly of the Henraux, where the pieces of marble he has chosen were laid out before us, almost helpless and fragile – extraordinary though that seems for a block weighing several tons – waiting for the machines that would forge what the artist had in mind and help him to translate his thought.
That is how the idea for the title of this piece came to me: The Rock, as the power that naked stone expresses is unequalled: you feel cornered, there are no short-cuts or ways out. At first, anyway, it’s stronger than you. To go into battle with it, you need both brain and muscles, intelligence and strength. You can’t be afraid of taking a risk or a gamble.
Five large new marbles by Xhixha will be accompanying the visitors an inhabitants of Versilia in the summer of 2016. And there’smore: his reflections on sculpture involve bronze too, another new material in his career, which, like marble, he is working with for the first time. And metal too is rock: it makes a good sound, a hard sound. Noise at its purest.
Richard Cork Refractive Vibes
Helidon Xhixha: Searching for the Pulse of Vitality
Last summer, visitors exploring the Venice Biennale were astonished to witness ‘Iceberg’ floating past them along the canals of this vulnerable and beguiling city. But soon enough, surprise gave way to deeper emotions as they realised the full implications of Helidon Xhixha’s provocative sculpture. Although made of stainless steel, its mirror-polished surface was refracted in the Venetian sunlight. The impact of ‘Iceberg’, moving through such an unlikely location, prompted thoughts about a world adrift from its moorings. Although the sculpture was in one sense bulky and rugged, its glinting surface looked strangely elusive as well. After a while ‘Iceberg’ signified the notion of melt-down, inviting everyone to imagine how Venice itself could be overwhelmed all too swiftly by a catastrophic flood.
On another level altogether, this fascinating sculpture offers an insight into the peripatetic life of the man who created it. The passage undertaken by ‘Iceberg’ reflects the restless journeying of Xhixha himself. Although born in Albania, he moved across to Italy and then studied in London before graduating from the Brera Academy in Milan. Like Brancusi, who left his native Romania and later described how he walked all the way to Paris, Xhixha was stimulated by moving. He now divides his time between Italy and Dubai while making work for public locations across the world, but his roots will never be forgotten. One of these monumental pieces is now installed in Tirana, outside the Presidential Palace of the Albanian Republic. Like so many of his mature sculptures, ‘Riflessi di storia’ brings steel and light into an energetic, complex and unpredictable conjunction. The polished metal is alive with reflections of the landscape surrounding the Presidential Palace, yet they all look fractured and distorted. It contrasts absolutely with the calm, classical order of the building, and shows Xhixha’s commitment to visual disturbance.
The longer we look at these works, the more we realise the strength of his involvement with restlessness. He sees himself as ‘a monumental artist’ with an urge to explore a sense of vastness ‘as it is the ultimate expression of the human mind and soul.’ But his monumentalism is the very opposite of ponderous grandiosity. ‘The Coil’, an immense stainless steel sculpture which rises up to a height of 1200 cm, turns and twists through space outside the Arvedi Steel Plant in Cremona. It celebrates both the strength and the suppleness of this tough, glinting material which Xhixha often employs. Curving in one direction with resolute confidence, it then dives off sideways and almost dances in the air. ‘The Coil’ does not rely so much on reflections: it is an intensely linear work which proves that drawing also plays an important role in Xhixha’s creative process. But ‘Riflessi dal cielo’, installed in 2012 among flower-beds and trees near the Lombardy Regional Government Building in Milan, shows his enduring readiness to explore a polished mirror surface. The sculpture confronts viewers and makes them very aware of its solid, three-dimensional presence. At the same time, though, it almost bewilders us with a dizzying, ever-shifting cluster of reflections which draws our attention to the paved ground, natural plants, the structure of nearby buildings and the luminous sky far above.
The variety of Xhixha’s public sculptures is very striking. Outside the Montanstahl building in Stabio, Switzerland, he erected ‘The Three Monoliths’ in 2008. Close inspection reveals that each of these tall, upright pieces has a distinctive surface quite different from its neighbours. One of them is covered with convex forms which seem to bulge in an almost organic way. Yet the monolith next to it is more suggestive of a steeply ascending rock-face, ancient and weather-worn. In this respect, it offers a dramatic contrast with the third monolith, where Xhixha has ensured that precisely defined minimal forms are displayed all over its vertical structure.
During the day, they look predominantly pale grey, whereas at night they are flecked with a surprising range of colours transmitted from the lit-up architecture behind, which also contains a spectacular wall-piece evoking the base of a redoubtable Swiss mountain.
Sometimes, Xhixha’s outdoor monuments possess a relatively soothing character. Take a look at the aptly named ‘Luce’, placed in an open-air setting at St Jean Cap Ferrat. Its curving forms mirror the colours of the water and sky, not to mention the palm trees clustered beyond the pool. ‘Luce’, as its name suggests, has a predominantly beneficent character, and ‘Riflessi Lunari’ goes even further in a healing direction. It is installed at Helsina Healthcare SA, at Pazzallo in Swizerland, where its pair of polished steel forms help to welcome patients and their families whose thoughts may well be dominated by the anxiety of illness. Reminiscent of two crescent moons, ‘Riflessi Lunari’ plays its luminous part in a therapeutic context.
Even so, it would be a mistake to suppose that most of Xhixha’s work is essentially calm and reassuring. He has become fascinated above all by the challenge of conveying a high-energy charge through the sheets of steel deployed in his work. Obsessed in particular with creating an expressive interplay between convex and concave undulations, he makes them reflect the natural world as well as the high-speed dynamism of modern transport. ‘Waterfalls’, a sculpture taking the form of two monoliths, inhabits the Giuseppe Bussolini Square in Padua, a city where Donatello’s eloquent Renaissance sculpture can be found on the altar of Sant’Antonio church.
But ‘Waterfalls’ takes us away from this urban context and evokes the power of water plummeting down a rock-encrusted cliff. The word ‘refraction’, which plays such a central role in understanding Xhixha’s vision, helps us understand how light-waves bend when they come into dramatic contact with the mirrored surface of his sculpture. And in ‘Waterfalls’ he is able to evoke the collision of liquid and rock, enhanced at every turn by the light’s incessant action.
At the opposite extreme, a sculpture called ‘Lighted Runways’ belongs to the world of high-speed jet travel. Its two rectangular columns occupy an indoor location this time, at Terminal 1 in Milan’s Malpensa Airport.
Here, the polished steel forms appear to vibrate with the visual stimulus provided by jets taking off and landing. Often the moments of greatest tension for pilots and passengers alike, both ascent and descent nevertheless provide extraordinary views of a world disappearing and returning. Xhixha’s ‘Lighted Runways’ conveys this frisson of nervous excitement in a very immediate way. Much of the time, though, his work concentrates on references to the natural world. ‘Oceano’, a sculpture installed in Sunny Isles, Florida, possesses a rippling shape evocative of the sea’s incessant motion.
Xhixha’s treatment of the steel now seems filled with tidal commotion. Viewed close-to, it plunges us into the heart of the ocean and we struggle to discover our whereabouts. But a work called ‘Vela’, which has found a highly appropriate home outside the Yacht Club in Monaco, focuses instead on the action of wind. Its form immediately makes us think of a sail, forever being blown in whatever directions the gales or milder gusts command.
Nothing ever stays still in Xhixha’s steel sculpture. He is an artist preoccupied with the inevitability of change, and in ‘Suono d’acciaio’ he is able to evoke the constantly shifting sound of a string instrument. Positioned near the Violin Museum created by Fondazione Stradivari in Cremona, this monumental piece appears to have a musical life of its own. Although resembling a violin, it does not need to rely on a musician. No strings are visible, either. We can imagine ‘Suono d’acciaio’ emitting sounds without any assistance from a violinist. The vivacity of music is summoned to our consciousness solely by Xhixha’s handling of the polished steel, alive with myriad reflections cast by all kinds of organic and structural matter surrounding the sculpture.
Although steel is a quintessentially modern material, used by many leading experimental sculptors during the twentieth century, Xhixha has always been aware of the past as well. Some of his recent pieces are now beginning to incorporate Carrara marble. As for the early works in this exhibition, they are far darker and less reflective than his other sculptures. Ominously, the blackened steel is handled with a greater degree of deliberate roughness. Some of them look like survivors from a mysterious, ancient civilisation, almost as if they have been unearthed by archaeologists searching for evidence of cultures long since overwhelmed by hostile forces and the inevitable passage of time. Xhixha’s early sculpture suggests that he began as an artist haunted by the memory of wartime destruction, and keenly aware of the vulnerable isolationism he witnessed in Albania during his childhood.
Since then his vision has widened and, as ‘Iceberg’ testified in Venice last year, he views the future of our entire planet with mounting alarm. Hence, no doubt, the constant involvement with splintering, breakage and fragmentation in his work as a whole. At the same time, however, he refuses to succumb to any kind of despair.
A spirit of resilience abounds in his sculpture, suggesting that Xhixha feels determined to combat the ever-present threat of dystopia with an affirmative art. It is a passionate defiance, springing from his search for the pulse of vitality which he wants to uncover and celebrate in so many aspects of existence.
Enrico Badellino - Light as Steel, Skira
Energy, Force, and Light are the words which most often appear in the titles of works by Xhixha. Their precision is eloquent in itself but even more so is the fact that the two synonyms ‘energy’ and ‘force’ repeatedly appear together with the word ‘light’.
The meaning of ‘energy’ can be traced back, in an abstract sense, to ‘work’ insofar as it is an ‘activity’; so it is in no way mistaken to assert that Xhixha’s work, at its root, takes shape as light; or, to shift the terminology, it is as though it sparks off a process aimed at freeing light from the material, in fact even for the material itself to release the light it contains as a sub-species of energy. But, even more than in a metaphorical sense, this statement is true in a literal sense: steel, Xhixha’s favorite material, is not only the final phase of a process that requires extremely high temperatures and a correspondingly high expense of energy, but in its liquid state, when it is ready to be poured, it emanates a blinding light.
So in a certain sense light already exists in Xhixha’s work; it is as though the artist had rediscovered the power for re-evocating it through an activity that, above all, implies a manifestation of energy and force, and that these inevitably lead to the release of light.