Edi Hila’s career spans several decades, a period during which he has managed to survive political disillusion, persecution and censorship. The 1970s were a particularly difficult period for the artist, when he was forbidden from painting by the secret police serving the Albanian Communist dictatorship.
His work was seen as being too ‘impressionist’ and not conforming to the image the country wanted to project internally and abroad. The specific painting that caused Hila most problems looks rather innocent today, especially to those without personal experience of Socialist totalitarianism. The gentle Fauvism of the picture was rejected by the political class, who were offended by Hila’s omission of the feet of his figures (this was interpreted as an attempt to destabilise the system). The artist was consequently ostracised.
The country’s transition to capitalism has been equally traumatic and destabilising. Hila – unable, like many Albanians, to adjust efficiently to the aggression of the new political system and conform to the anti-idealism of the free market – has become even more introverted. The poetic portrait of the artist’s mother entitled La Mamma exemplifies Hila’s desire to withdraw from public discussion and the political arena. It nevertheless comments on the social injustices of the capitalist period. In the solitude of her apartment, the woman is captured by the painter in a feeble daily gesture, operating her TV remote control. The image clearly shows that her entire world is bound up in her domestic life, a microcosm that keeps her safe and protected.
After the end of the Communist regime and the reintroduction of the right to private property, most flats and houses in Albania were claimed back by their former owners. As often happens when such a drastic change occurs, bribery and corruption governed the process of reinstating private property. The new landlords quickly proved to be not very compassionate towards the occupiers of the formerly nationalised accommodation. As a result, the weakest strata of society lost the little they had – including the artist’s mother, who was forced out of her own apartment. Abruptly and forcibly uprooted from the familiarity of her flat, the woman passed away soon after. Poignantly, the portrait encapsulates both the end of an era and that of a life.
Source: Liverpool Biennial International Festival of Contemporary Art, 2010 Guide