From 19 to 25 Novembre, the artist Albert Stermolli exhibited his works for the first time in Italy. Still little known in Italy, Albert comes from an important contribution in the Albanian cinematography, within the "Kinostudio Shqiperia e Re", the only film studio of that period where he worked for about sixteen years.The exhibition entitled "The Byzantine dichotomy", was set up at the mountain salon in Via Carducci 22 in Asti. This is certainly an artist who is very attentive to form but above all to the content of his art. His works come from a deep study of the artistic, cultural, social and religious material of the best Albanian art tradition. Exposed to art and with careful attention to every detail, the exhibited works honor not only traditional Albanian art, but also contemporary art.
We have tried to understand his motivations more deeply and we have asked Albert for an interview that we fully report to the readers of our page together with the images of the inauguration of the exhibition.The interview was carried out by Blenti Shehaj, head of the Piedmontese editorial staff of Albania News - Asti, 19 November 2011
Is the "Byzantine dichotomy" only religious art or are there other aspects represented?I use the definition "Byzantine dichotomy" to try to make part of the countless faces that compose Byzantine thought and art understandable.
Today we call Albania that small part, the one that remains as heir to the ethnic group: the Pelasgians, then the Illyrians, the second were composed by Dardani, Arbëri, Macedoni and the Epiroti, belonging to a culture that developed a particular philosophy which has been deliberately concealed for a variety of reasons that should not be dealt with in this interview.
What inspired your work the most and where does it come from to start building a picture?
My works mature on the basis of my experience and my cultural heritage, in practice they represent the clash between the man I am. son of…. husband of ... father of ... friend of ..., and the thought that underlies my being an artist.
Let me explain myself better: in my opinion the man, if he wants to be part of civil society, must be loyal to his rules, while being "artist" means being absolutely free, just as Nietzsche says "beyond good and evil" .
The Artist must be the modern rhapsode that indicates the way that leads to new skies and new lands.
In order to be such, in themselves it must be born a very violent clash between its own human and rational part, logic, and its own creative, mysterious, irrational and apparently illogical part.
This confrontation generates within itself a destructive, unbearable suffering, inasmuch as it nullifies all the pre-existing forms of structure that make man die in his human being.
Here comes the spark that ignites the Spirit that gives birth to the artist, who can thus give birth to his work.
However the creation of a work is absolutely analogous to the situation of a woman in labor, a suffering gradually increasing until it reaches its climax, then, through the recognition of the others for the finished work, the conciliatory happiness takes over.
What is Byzantine art for Albert Stermolli?
It is the legacy of a past that frightened by its implications, a kind of "mummified corpse" that carries with it a hidden knowledge obscured by time and by men, a mummy that if brought back to life can make us rediscover how big it can be Man, both good and bad.
In its message it reminds us, among other things, of the Pythagorean numerology where the three is the symbol of unifying summation, and the two is a symbol of rupture, of dichotomy, of dialectics, but not necessarily destructive.
How much does the Albanian culture affect all this?
The heritage that comes to me from the dawn of time, through all the ethnic groups mentioned above, is a philosophy that is at the very basis of European and Western culture in general.
Through my research I was able to follow, as if it were the mythical thread of Arianna, their thoughts hidden by the interest of men, yesterday as (and above all) today.
Are there other artistic experiences before this exhibition?
In the distant 1969, almost twelve years old, for the first time, with awe, I dared to open the half-open door of the figurative art studio-studio of a great Albanian artist. I was enraptured by the vision and atmosphere of what reigned behind that door. From that moment on I spent eight, unforgettable years in that "magical" world.
Under the guidance of the thought and the expert hands of that great Master, I and three companions, students, carried out, over time, one of His projects entitled "satire in sculpture", composed of as many as one hundred and fifty works.
Those years full of studies and lively work practices have had a profound effect on my education, leaving indelible imprints on my mind.
Later, after completing his studies, I worked for sixteen years in the only, large, existing Film Studio in Albania, where in a year he came to realize forty-five documentaries, thirteen artistic films and sixteen cartoons.
I worked on the creation of many works in collaboration with the best directors, screenwriters, set designers and actors in my country. In the 1991 I emigrated to Greece, to Calambaka, where there are the "Meteors", on the tops of which several monasteries are located.
Inside these monasteries there are the schools of "iconography", in which I have delved deeply into the study of both the technique and the thinking that presides over them, extraordinary art that expresses philosophical concepts through a very complex symbology where the same characters represented are symbols .
Through this study I was able to penetrate the secrets of history, thus rediscovering the culture and history of my country and practicing it technique, working in different laboratories, also creating new works.
I have a very vivid memory of Calambaka, both of the places and of the people I attended and have a special place in my heart. Then he arrived in Italy ...
In March of the year 1995 I finally arrived in Italy, and precisely in Asti, the place where I began to reflect on my inner experience consisting of all the experiences made in relation to what I mean by life, not a mere repetition of days months and years, but a life that enriches me with new experiences and new knowledge, day by day.
How a wise old man expressed himself: you don't have to be a traveler when he doesn't look forward to reach the goal, but you have to be a wayfarer who makes every encounter and every event happen in his going, an inner experience that increases him more and more bringing it ever closer to the Light, to the understanding of the world in which it is immersed and to its most hidden Causes.
All this made me understand that the way to go to make sense of my work that not only serves to embellish the walls or living rooms, but that I must speak to the man of Man, not to give him false certainties, but rather to ask him doubts that make him think and lead him to search for himself.
Can you tell us something about the technique used?
Byzantine iconography is a very special technique: first of all it is not an art that attempts to
to give the impression of three-dimensionality. precisely because it is and must remain a symbolic art, without the possibility of being able to be changed into something else, it is a means to reflect and meditate.
After having acquired it you understand the meaning and importance, then at first it fascinates you and, later, it makes you a slave, because you discover that it is the best type of non-verbal communication, to which you understand the limit of your understanding and that you must proceed and go over in your knowledge path.
Can art live in Italy?
I have not succeeded so far.
How do you reconcile the life of an artist with that of the family and with other daily tasks?
As I mentioned before, for me it is fundamental to be a man, by which I mean that as a person I have to fulfill my task by fully fulfilling my duty, in all its sentimental and practical aspects, while as an artist I am a free and informal Spirit .
What is certain is that the conflict between these two antithetical parts between them is, in me, very painful, but certainly very profitable, because philosophy, unlike what is happening in this age, is not talking, but BEING.
The outcome of this conflict materializes in the treasure that is the works, and the sharing of these with everyone is the right trade for the spirit of the artist.
What strikes you most in Byzantine art? And all that time?
Perseverance in the technique, perseverance in the drive towards pure spirituality, absolute determination in spreading the message.
Albania and Byzantium ... a combination full of dark spots, incomplete stories, historical abuses but also a period yet to be studied. How does Albert see it all?I see a story written in half, which must be rewritten by completing the missing parts because our history is not only ours, but is also the basis of European history, precisely because of this peculiar characteristic: the "dichotomy".
How is your day organized?
The day is dedicated to the next, but the night is mine.
What are your links with the country of origin?
The heart is in my country: Albania, the body and the mind are absolutely in Italy, the spirit is beyond the clouds.