Installation view of Petrit Halilaj’s work <em>Very volcanic over this green feather</em> on display as part of NGV Triennial from 3 December 2023 – 7 April 2024 at NGV International, Melbourne. Photo: Sean Fennessy

Petrit Halilaj

Photo: Guy Martin

Petrit Halilaj
Kosovo born 1986, lives in Germany

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Displaced along with members of his immediate family during the Kosovo War (1998–99), Petrit Halilaj’s Very volcanic over this green feather explores his experience as a thirteen-year-old refugee living for more than two years in Kukës II camp in Albania. Art materials were distributed to children at the camp by visiting Italian psychologist Giacomo Poli. Poli encouraged the children to externalise and process their experiences through drawing. Spotting his talent, Poli would much later arrange for Halilaj to attend art school in Italy.

Halilaj’s rediscovery of these felt-tip pen drawings inspired the creation of this large-scale installation which takes thirty-six drawings from the artist’s childhood experience as the basis for a visual and physical journey through the artist’s memory. The work reveals the complex and ever-changing relationships between reality and the imagination, personal history and collective trauma, official histories and lived experiences. Symbols as varied as the Garden of Eden and its birds, trees and flowers are interspersed with images of war and trauma. Transferred to thick felt and suspended, the drawings appear as a theatre set or a landscape, where the fragmented visions of war and peace sit side by side.

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Petrit Halilaj lives and works between Berlin and Prishtina. In his work, he creates complex worlds that claim space for freedom, desire, intimacy and identity. Solo exhibitions include Tate St Ives, Cornwall, 2021; Palacio de Cristal, Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid, 2020; La Fondazione Merz, Turin, 2018; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2018; New Museum, New York, 2017; Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, 2016; Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne, 2015; and Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn, 2015. In 2013 he represented Kosovo for the country’s first appearance at the Venice Biennale. He is currently a professor, with Álvaro Urbano, at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris.

The NGV warmly thanks Barry Janes and Paul Cross, Nick Perkins and Paul Banks, Sarah Cronin, Samuel Cronin and Bradley Cronin, Sophie and Simon Crowe, and Donors to the 2024 NGV Summer Appeal for their support.

This artist has been supported by the Elizabeth Summons Grant in Memory of Nicholas Draffin.

Proudly supported by Major Partner Deakin University.