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Helidon Xhixha at Somerset House

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Helidon Xhixha

Utopia, steel and self-analysis - 'Bliss', by Helidon Xhixha

Many of my pieces have reflection at their heart, but with 'Bliss', it feels more pertinent than ever.

Helidon Xhixha

'Bliss', one of only two works selected for installation in the courtyard of Somerset House, will be on display over the course of London Design Biennale, 7 - 27th September. Plinth writer Emily Watkins spoke to the artist about his motivations and how creating a piece which centres on the state of Europe has evolved over 12 months in the making.

Emily Watkins

We’d love to hear about the process of creating your newest work, ‘Bliss’, installed in the Somerset House Courtyard. I understand that it took more than 12 months to create, and that it centres around the issues currently facing Europe. What are those issues, in your eyes?

Helidon Xhixha

I have been working on 'Bliss' for the past twelve months. These have been tumultuous times and working on a piece such as Bliss, which addresses the issues of migration currently facing the world, feels very timely. Many of my pieces have reflection at their heart, but with 'Bliss', it feels more pertinent than ever.

EW

Did you always imagine exhibiting ‘Bliss' in the UK? Did its location effect the process of conceiving the work, considering the current political climate?

HX

I began creating Bliss with the London Design Biennale and it’s theme of Utopia very much in mind, and as far as I know I was one of the first to apply for the Biennale as it seems like such an important time for us to be addressing the concept of utopia.

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'Bliss', at Somerset House Courtyard. Helidon Xhixha, 2016.

EW

Reflection is a theme which has appeared in much of your work, and again in ‘Bliss’. What is its importance, for you?

HX

I love to work with steel as it allows the concept of reflection to be conveyed so simply and effectively. With Bliss, and the Biennale theme, we are given a moment to reflect on what I suspect will continue to be one of the most poignant and challenging issues of our time, that of migration. On the one side we have the ongoing tragedy of displaced people coming to Europe seeking safety, a haven, a better place. On the other side we have the people of Europe reflecting on this tragic situation.

EW

How did you begin using steel in your sculpture?

HX

When I began working as a sculptor I originally started out using glass when I was a student. I then discovered steel and completely fell in love with it. I continued to favour it because of the effects of the light. When you are working with steel it keeps moving, it comes alive, it changes according to where it is placed, what time of day it is, where the sun is. It gives a reflection of your own surroundings and of yourself. Last year I worked in Pietrasanta where I produced work in marble. Working with a medium that absorbs light instead of reflecting it is also interesting to me.

Art allows us the freedom of interpretation. I think great art always challenges, raises important issues and provokes thought and debate.

Helidon Xhixha
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Helidon Xhixha with his work 'Bliss', 2016.

EW

Many of your pieces tackle an important issue - climate change, the state of Europe, etc. Do you believe art should impart a message?

HX

I believe that art provides an extremely powerful platform for ideas and discussion. It is possibly one of the most important ways we can communicate and leave something with people. Art allows us the freedom of interpretation. I think great art always challenges, raises important issues and provokes thought and debate.

EW

I understand that much of your inspiration comes from the Renaissance utopian trope of the Ideal City. Is ‘Bliss’ a proposition for a perfect city?

HX

The Biennale theme of Utopia sparked inspiration for Bliss. Until the Renaissance there was no visual representation of Utopia, as it was a concept, a dream, an idyll. It was this theme that made me start to develop my own ideas for the perfect city. A place that people can be together, can interact, can reflect, that changes and evolves as time passes. The steel that I use helps enhance that evolution and fluidity.

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'Bliss', at Somerset House Courtyard. Helidon Xhixha, 2016.

EW

What would an ideal city look like for you?

HX

Sadly I'm not sure it could happen, but somewhere where everyone is safe and happy. It all emanates from an element of altruism. To me, the ideal city is about the happiness of the people in it, not only our own happiness but also the happiness of others.

EW

‘Bliss’ seems to be a public sculpture, with public interaction at its centre - both a micro city, and now part of the fabric of an existing one. It incorporates benches for people to sit on, and they become reflected in the body of the sculpture. Is this a piece about multiplicity? Togetherness? Or about self-analysis?

HX

'Bliss' is very much about all of these things. It is about how a perfect city should be. It should not about one person, there should be a consideration of the person sitting next to you. It is about reflection and self-analysis but also about bringing people together. One of the most satisfying things for me as an artist is seeing visitors interact with 'Bliss'. It can be something as simple as people sitting chatting, kids exploring the centre of the installation where you can find the map of Europe in amongst the steel pillars. And of course in this day and age to see visitors taking photos and selfies as their image reflects in the steel. People interacting with the art is very special to me.

One of the most satisfying things for me as an artist is seeing visitors interact with 'Bliss'. It can be something as simple as people sitting chatting, kids exploring the centre of the installation where you can find the map of Europe in amongst the steel pillars.

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Helidon Xhixha

Helidon Xhixha, Bliss, at the London Design Biennale 7-27 September, Somerset House. http://www.helidonxhixha.com | Instagram @helidon_xhixha #BlissLDB #LDB2016

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