100 years of Albanian drawing and more

At The National Art Gallery of Albania

The exhibit entitled “100 Years of Albanian Drawing” will continue until January 5th, 2015.

I had planned to visit the gallery for another exhibition; yet, as it often happens in life, I found these drawings to be the best part of the gallery and, thus, a nice surprise. Not often do you get to see historic drawings and sketches when you visit galleries. Yet, drawing is arguably the key talent of any artist. It is, in many ways, the foundation of everything that is to come and the initial step the artist takes. However, many artists consider this the “lesser” art. The great painter Francis Bacon vehemently denied throughout his life that he sketched any of his works prior to painting on the canvas. Yet, following his death, many sketches and drawings emerged.

To be perfectly honest, drawing holds a tricky spot in my heart, as well. What once was my absolute favorite art form and activity lost its appeal throughout the latter decade of my life. Yet, I have recently re-discovered drawing with this exhibit (along with the most creative, interactive project from Moleskine – The Sketchbook Project. If you browse the beautiful work that people have sketched on their Moleskin sketchbooks, I promise you will be blown away by their work and talent). Drawings feel more intimate than a finished painting. Edgar Degas said that “drawing is the artist’s most direct and spontaneous expression; it reveals better than does painting his true personality.” Paul Gauguin famously resisted revealing his drawings to his critics. “Never” he said, “They are my letters, my secrets.” If I compare drawing or sketching to our daily lives, I would say that drawings are what we say and paintings, what we carefully write. Fittingly, Goethe has implied they are interchangeable but one is far more valuable than the other: “we should talk less and draw more”.

Putting the drawing quotes and accolades aside for a moment, I would say that people are indisputably attracted to color and dimension, both strikingly present in our daily lives but strikingly absent from drawing; thus, drawing is often ignored in favor of the colorful and dimensional: painting and sculpture. However, in these particular times, when I am increasingly over-exposed to [moving] images and excess of color, the static minimalism of drawing was a welcome rest for my senses. The simplicity of pen or pencil, the black, white, and sepia by way of relaxing me, made me not only prolong my visit but actually concentrate in silence. Creating depth without dimension, or gimmicks for that matter, somehow offered me – and here I apologize for quoting Enigma – a much-needed return to innocence.

While there was nothing extraordinary about the way the exhibit was constructed, the drawings created a warm atmosphere, a three-fold nostalgia – a literal trip through 100 years of Albanian history, a return to childhood when I spent countless hours by – or with – myself drawing, and a wishful futuristic nostalgia for minimalism and a slower paced time.

When it comes to telling a country’s history, drawing is perhaps the most appropriate and fascinating tool. While every art form goes through transformations, fads, trends, or movements, drawing remains constant. Being one of the few – if the only – steadfast element of an ever-changing world, drawing magically connects you to generations long gone, with whom you seemingly do not have much in common. Drawing shows you, you do. In that, drawing contains everything.

While you are at the gallery, you can visit a very small but perfectly curated exhibit in honor of the famous Italian interior designer, Vico Magistretti. You will be reminded how simplicity is the foundation of design.

In my re-found love of drawing, I found a few beautiful collection of sketches and drawings by famous artists such as Bacon, Schiele, Monet, Degas, Picasso and Rembrandt.

For more beautiful rare sketches of Edgar Degas’ famous “women bathing” series, go here.

The book "Drawing Lessons from the Great Masters" is focused on teaching drawing. However, I have found looking through it that it actually teaches you how to "read" drawings and, thus, it is as useful for the artists as for the public appreciating his/her art.

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