I had concluded that the mainstream art world despised art therapy out of fear of being associated with madness.
Yet now here it is – Petrit Halilaj worked as a child with art therapist Giacomo Poli and this helped him cope with the dreadful consequences of the war in Kosovo. Now he has retrieved these vivid works, enlarged them, printed them on felt and hung them in the large gallery on knotted strings so that they form a whole forest of images – some frightening memories – some escapist fantasy – amongst which we can walk, catching sight of different views. Knotted string often features in art therapy case histories – symbolic of trying to keep yourself together through trauma. It’s totally absorbing, tragic and lovely. These pictures have a spontaneous energy. This show takes your mind off your mundane worries and I emerged with that feeling of exaltation at having experienced something very important, easy to grasp and memorably moving.
Petrit Halilaj – ‘Very volcanic over this green feather.’
Tate St Ives, Oct to 16 Jan 2022 (The first UK museum solo exhibition for artist Petrit Halilaj born 1986, Kosovo)
Volume 36 no 3 January / February 2022