The private artist: An interview with Vigan Nimani

Known mostly for his stripped-down architectural paintings, Vigan Nimani talks to Prishtina Insight about his photography, music, and other obsessions.

Because of his quiet nature, apart from his tight-knit circle of friends and a handful of local passionate art enthusiasts, not a lot of people seem to know that in addition to painting, Vigan Nimani also takes photographs, makes music, and assists in the little vegetarian restaurant which he owns together with his wife. The tucked-away but popular Babaghanoush’s minimalistic interior, accompanied by the slow music played in the background, is harmonious with the 36-year-old Nimani’s character perhaps also due to the presence of his paintings, a few of which hang on the restaurant’s barren walls.

Nimani’s paintings, which most commonly depict architectural landscapes that at first might seem flat but open up once one plays closer attention to the brush-stroked details, will now grace the white walls of the Motrat Gallery for a whole month.

Titled “Properties of the undeveloped,” the solo exhibition opening tonight at 7 pm will include about 50 paintings and some drawings of mostly landscapes and buildings. The frames of the paintings look old – some are vintage items collected by the artist, while a few he made himself.

“I’ve been fascinated by architecture and buildings, and I’ve been dealing with the same theme in my paintings for a few years now,” explained Nimani when I met him at the private gallery in central Prishtina. “For this exhibition I tried to combine my main paintings and some other drawings and sketches that I’ve done during my research and which led me in a way to the paintings.”

Untitled by Vigan Nimani. | Photo: courtesy of Vigan Nimani.

Nimani–who used to manage the now defunct underground art space Tetris and the ‘hipster’ Tingell Tangell bar–was left to his own devices when it came to curating the show. He’s no rookie at that – both his previous establishments regularly hosted small exhibitions and indie music gigs.

“I was inspired mostly by old books published in Yugoslav times, things like like Kosova Sot [a coffee table book], published by the Svetozar Markovic publishing house in Belgrade in 1984 which contains a lot of great pictures of buildings, factories, landscapes, roads, people and nature,” explained Nimani, pointing at various paintings hanging on the wall.  “Actually, most of the motifs that are in this exhibition are inspired or taken from those books, which I collect passionately.”

Nimani is also an avid photographer and likes to play with prints and light leaks in photographs that often inspire his paintings.

“I also paint the pictures I take with my camera,” said Nimani, adding that he takes a lot of pictures and revisits the shots years later to paint them. “I rarely paint the whole photograph, but I paint some detail of the photograph I took that stuck with me the most.”

“When I paint my own photographs I try to give them similar colors to the ones I see in those old books I collect, because I don’t like the real colors,” said Nimani, offering an explanation on why his work appears faded. “I rather prefer the colors of printed pictures. In fact, I actually enjoy when they are printed badly, because I like the pale lighting and the faded effect that gets created in the process.”

Nimani uses  film to take pictures  and says he enjoys the process of developing the film and seeing various results in printing.

“I always photograph with film. Next I print those photographs, and then I take pictures of the printed photographs with a digital camera. And then I print them again,” said Nimani, smiling.

“By doing this in a way I try to lose the real colors and play with light and resolution. I also like taking pictures with bad cameras, or pictures taken with an old phone or something similar – these are very appealing to me.”

Photo: Rina Krasniqi.

All this fascination with faded colors, according to Nimani, dates back to when he discovered his old family pictures that he then started to draw. “I always liked the buildings in those old family pictures and the relation they had to the people, but later I simplified those photographs in my mind and started to draw and paint only the buildings.”

I comment that not many people can be spotted in his drawings and paintings. Nimani insisted that there are some people but usually those characters look lonely – and that’s why they seem scarce.

“I just can’t do it differently,” he said, smiling again. “Usually when I paint some person I like to paint that individual when he or she is quiet, you know, not in action or doing something. I like to paint people when they are just being, just existing. But don’t think that my characters are depressed or sad, not at all, I think they are quiet and lonely, but in a content and happy way – they are just present in the moment.”

Nimani, who studied painting at the Fine Arts school in Prishtina between 2002 and 2006, has exhibited his work in Kosovo, Albanian, Slovenia, Serbia and the Netherlands. Most recently, his work appeared as part of “Presence of the Real” exhibition curated by Galit Eliat in Prishtina and Peja, and in the “Just Hanging Around” exhibition at the COD in Tirana, curated by Erzen Shkololli.   

Although he considers painting as his main medium, Nimani also plays synth in a band called TETRIS, which he established a couple of years ago with his closest friends.

“Music came very naturally to me. We started playing music with my friends Jakup Ferri, Bujar Sylejmani and others in art school. We just took up instruments and started playing,” he said. Like Nimani, his bandmates and friends are also painters, and mostly play music for themselves in intimate spaces. Nimani, who has recorded all of their ‘jams,’ is considering making an LP, although he still prefers to keep their music intimate.

“We always preferred to play music just for ourselves because it is a responsibility to play for others and I don’t like that. But people are pushing us to since they like the music we make,” he said.

“Properties of the undeveloped” exhibition opens at 7 pm on Thursday, May 25, 2017 at MOTRAT Gallery. The exhibition will be open until June 26, 2017.


25 May 2017 - 11:30

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