Leonard Qylafi | Morphological Variations 2017-2021

Opening 9 May 2022, at 19:00 

9 May – 11 June 2022

Text by Alketa Kurrizo

Leonard Qylafi presents “Morphological Variations”, a project that explores the structure of digital images. As an organic extension of his artistic research in recent years on the nature of images, the artist borrows from Biology, the science that studies the structure and features of living organisms, to observe digital images. What are these images made from? Does their morphology intrigue us? The artist has sought answers to these questions through a series of 15 paintings produced between 2017 and 2021.

Leonard Qylafi’s recent project Morphological Variations, presented at ZETA, is a series of oil paintings on canvas that explores the structural nature of digital images. Specifically, this series delves into how these images emerge, and the ways they are rendered, actualized, and transmitted.

From the field of biology, the artist has borrowed the term “Morphology,” the method that guides the study of the form, structure, and specific features of living organisms. The screen—as the only stable platform to support the images’ existence—is the artist’s “ground” to explore, at times as the medium and at others as the image’s habitat, and sometimes even as an entity in itself. As an organic extension of his artistic research on the nature of images, the artist begins his analysis by getting a closer look, fragmenting, and taking samplesaccordingto a quasi-“scientific procedure”.

The variations themselves are “the samples taken”: simplified, reduced to colorful screen patterns. Documented by the artist in the form of extreme close-ups taken from various monitors, these images function as the remote subject of that which they will become later in the process. Transformed, cropped, and layered, the repeating, uniform rhythm of the screen patterns is enclosed within compositions of different sizes.

In paintings #2 #5 #10#11 and #12—compositions based on the primary colors—Leonard goes further in de-constructing the original subject. Using the grid as an imaginary platform, he simplifies the image by mastering color and light to transform the subject into an abstract vision.In paintings #1#3#4#6#7 and #8, he synthesizes comprehensive compositions by painting the black around the “cells” of the grid in order to highlight their glowing subject.

The artist traces various features of the “fabrics” of the screen in paintings #13#14 and #15. The explosion of color serves as the manifestation of the depth of the morphological analysis taking place. The screens are not even a remote reference anymore: instead, the emotional space between the representative and the abstract is interpreted in these paintings in order to unveil the power and completeness of a single moment in time.

Throughout its journey (2017- 2021), this project has taken on an inherent gravity. During the period of isolation, screens—paradoxically—have become a vital source for communication, information, and emotional connection, while at the same time taking part in a sad iconography of loneliness, fear, and distance. The artist is intrigued by the void between the real and the virtual, raising questions about the core of lived experience.The “momentum” of these images’ existence embodies their ambiguity and strangeness to us. They navigate through the undefined nature of“the digital”construed as an illusion that exists far away from the real world. 


Leonard Qylafi(b.1980) is an Albanian visual artist. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Tirana in 2003, from the Atelier of Painting. His practice explores several mediums, including painting, video, photography, and music. Deeply linked to personal experience, Leonard’s artworks constitute a process of research and mediation between subjects and mediums.

Since his graduation, he has been active and present in both the local and international art scene. Over the  years, his work has beenexhibited by: Centre de créationcontemporane,Olivier Debré,Tours/France (2021);Belvedere21Vienna/Austria (2019);NiMAC Museum,Nicosia / Cyprus (2018), National Gallery of Tirana / Albania (2017);MuCEM, Marseilles/France, and Izolyatsia, Kiev/ Ukraine in  (2016); The 55th October Salon, Belgrade/Serbia (2014); KünstlerhausBethanien, Berlin/Germany and Kunst RaumRiehen Basel/Switzerland (2012); MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts, Debrecen/Hungary (2011); TICAB-Tirana International  Biennial Contemporary Art Tirana / Albania; and the ISCP- New York /USA in (2009), among other venues.

Leonard Qylafi has been awarded several residency programs, by organizations such as the NIFCA-Nordic Institute of Contemporary Art, Helsinki/Finland, ISCP New York /USA, KKA-KulturKontakt Austria, and T.I.C.A-Tirana Institute for Contemporary Art. He was nominated for visual artist of the year by the Tirana Cultural Academy “Kult”, andwas the winner of the “ARDHJE” Award for Albanian Young Artists in 2008. His work has been presented in art publicationsinternationally, and is part of the collections of theAlbanian National Gallery of Art; Contemporary Art Collection, MuCEM- Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée, Marseille;the video collection of the Belvedere 21-Contemporary Art Museum; the Berlin Biennalevideo archive. It is also part of several private collections.

Leonard Qylafi represented Albania at the 57th edition of Venice Biennale (2017) with the multidisciplinary project “Occurrence in Present Tense“,curated by Vanessa Joan Müller.

He lives and works in Tirana/Albania.

Leonard Qylafi, Morphological variations, image courtesy the artist.