Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Contemporary Nomad on Contemporary Carpets

Carpets are very dear to me and not only because they are a part of semi-nomadic life as the major life events such as birth, wedding and death were indispensable from a carpet: children were delivered on a carpet, a carpet was woven as a part of a trousseau and in carpet one's breathless body was wrapped. Carpet was a protector from cold as well as bad spirits. Settled down professional carpet-makers living in big cultural and administrative centers were producing carpets for sale/export and as big commissions for palaces or mosques, now most of these pieces are owned by leading museums and art collectors. 

The times when "my home is wherever my carpet is spread" have stayed in the past also very few may distinguish a high quality carpet from those crowded the market. Nowadays carpets have turned into a commodity when many, even those living in historical centers for carpet making such as the Caucasus exchange their grand-grandparents carpets with unique designs and family stories to a machine-woven crude synthetic ones without any regret or an obsolete old-fashioned object not fitting in many contemporary interiors

Contemporary artists breath some life in this obsolete tradition experimenting and getting inspiration from this ancient craft. Some use a carpet in its traditional appearance including it into installations, some keep traditional shapes but play with the ornaments and some go even further and create something completely detached from original woven carpet concept.

Keeping Up the Traditions

Works in this section by Jannis Kounellis, Saad Qureshi, Ilya and Emiliya Kabakov, or Babak Golkar do not change the "DNA" of an oriental rug but instead use their beauty in strengthening an art message. 

Jannis Kounellis, Untitled, 2004 (from retrospective in Glasgow). Photograph: 
Saad Qureshi, A Sort Of Loss, 2010
Saad Qureshi, Lacking Words, 2009. Chapatis on carpet.
Saad Qureshi, We Will Go On Covering Our Heads, 2010. Fabric cotton wool, steel wool.
Babak Golkar, Grounds For Standing and Understanding, 2012, Persian carpet, wood, acrylic, lacquer paint, variable dimensions
Ilya & Emilia Kabakov, The Blue Carpet installation, 1997.

New Old 

Few artists and interior designer companies keep the definition of a carpet as something woven out of yarn (wool, silk, cotton, etc.) but experimenting with a content, colors, shapes and features.

First time I have seen carpets with recognizable art, mostly of Old Masters and Classical European landscape scenes or more generic portraits of angel-like children with puppies or kittens was in Tabriz bazaars in mid-90s. Below, however, are less commercial and more arty limited editions or one-of-a-kind pieces of the same concept.

Swedish Love by Robert Indiana
Robert Indiana, Swedish Love, 1995, Wool Carpet. Source: Artnet 
Ali Raza, Rug, 2010. C Print

Farhad Moshiri, an Iranian artist working a lot with carpet media using it as a mean to joke about consumerism culture, was one of the participants of the group show Love Me Love Me Not of Yarat! pavilion curate by Dina Nasser-Khadivi (read on her curating Lalla Essaydi's Harem hereat Venice 2013 Art Biennial. The installation consists of more than 500 carpets depicting celebrities-covered magazines from all over the world.
"In our globalized world the Magazine Store or Kiosk de Press is where the opinions of the collective are commodified and force-led. It is the autoportrait of our society, the Cabine de Curiosité of our culture." 
Farhad Moshiri 

Farhad Moshiri, Kiosk de Curiosité, 2011. Installation of approximately 550 carpets, Each carpet: 75 x 45 cm., Overall installation: 350 x 550 x 200 cm.  Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris/Salzburg. Photos taken during La Biennale visit on September 2013.

Video from Art and Press featuring Moshiri describing the concept of Kiosk de Curiosité installation. Length:1:52 min 

Art in the airports is growing in its popularity, but mostly the installations or even expositions giving a glimpse to a museum's collection such as The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol still fall into contemplation and decoration category, whereas the "Flying Carpet" by Seyed Alavi is more practical. Travelers walk a 150 foot carpet that has the fifty miles aerial  view of course of the Sacramento River woven into it. 

"In addition to recalling the experience of flight and flying, this piece, by depicting the larger geographical area, also helps to reinforce a sense of belonging and/or connection for the traveler. In this way, the carpet can also be read and experienced as a “welcome mat” for visitors arriving in Sacramento. <...>

By working with carpeting <...>, I have been able to transform something quite ordinary into an extra-ordinary aesthetic experience. This apparently simple gesture, integrates multiple layers of harmonious meanings and references, in order to stimulate a conceptual dialog. Ultimately, however it was my intention with this project to present a fun and humorous situation for laughter and play, where travelers will feel rejuvenated and reminded of the magic of flight.
Seyed Alavi 


Seyed Alavi, Flying Carpet; 2005. Wool and nylon carpet; 18.5’W x 150’L. Image source: artist's website

Another example of aerial view is the WorldWide Carpets project designed by David Hanauer. The artist uses Google Earth photographs, mainly of Las Vegas and Los Angeles since these cities already have certain geometric pattern thus making it easier to to translate ornament structures of Persian carpets into Hanauer's mirroring patterns and recurring motives.  

"Based on the generated vocabulary of forms, while also modifying the template, David Hanauer ties on the traditional ways of figurative story telling with the carpet being the image carrier. Worldwide Carpets are not only everyday objects: they do as well report about the contemporary human being who is using the carpet."

David Hanauer, WorldWide Carpets #2, "Sun City", 140 x 190 cm, photograph printed on carpet material. Single carpet. Source: artist's website
David Hanauer, WorldWide Carpets #1 6th & Flower St, 140 x 190 cm, photograph printed on carpet material. Single carpet. Source: artist's website

David Hanauer, WorldWide Carpets series, 140 x 190 cm, photograph printed on carpet material. Single carpet. Source:
 David Hanauer, WorldWide Carpets #2, "City of Hope", 140 x 190 cm, photograph printed on carpet material. Single carpet. Source: artist's website
David Hanauer, WorldWide Carpets #2, "City of Hope", photograph printed on carpet material. Flooring. Source: artist's website
David Thomas Smith's Anthropocene photo-carpets are identical to those of David Hanauer as the artist also uses digitally reworked Google maps images. Homonym artists have been creating very similar art more or less at the same time, 2009-2011, make it difficult to identify without further research who of the two came up with the idea first or whether, as in the invention of the radio or few other examples in science, "great mind think alike" saying is also true about these two artists and their creations. The only difference is that while Hanauer applied his Photoshop images on carpets, Smith decided to keep them as C-prints. This is what I call "artistic twinship" and to that I have devoted a separate post (click here). 

David Thomas Smith, Anthropocene series, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 2010-2011. Source: The Copper House Gallery
David Thomas Smith, Anthropocene series, Biosphere 2, Oracle Arizona, USA, 2010-2011. Source:  The Copper House Gallery
David Thomas Smith, Anthropocene series, Three Gorges Dam, Sandouping, Yiling, Hubei, People's Republic of China, 2010-2011. Source:  The Copper House Gallery
David Thomas Smith, Anthropocene series, Three Mile Island Generation Station, Middletown, Pennsylvania, USA, 2010-2011. Source:  The Copper House Gallery

Many enjoy walking bare-feet on a grass, yet for that one needs to walk in a park or at least to have a lawn at the backyard. With "moss carpet" designed by Nguyen La Chanh for Baolam Design one can step on green surface every time getting out of a shower: the water dripping from the body and the humidity of the bathroom feeds the moss (ball, island and forest moss) that grows in cells made out of a recycled latex foam called plastazote. Not sure how often moss has to be changed, but this product, a meeting point of eco-friendliness and design, is something cool I would not mind to have in my own house.

Nguyen La Chanh for Baolam Design, Moss Carpet, Image source: Coroflot

If having a carpet and nature hybrid is not exactly what you want, but you still want something original and contemporary, there are plenty of examples of nature imitation surfaces such as felted pebbles found both on designer firm  websites and make-it-yourself step by step online guides. It is difficult to judge the life span of this piece, but it seems very difficult to clean without damaging the quality of this carpet.

Piero Gilardi, Nature Carpets (at Nottingham Contemporary). Source: click here

An unexpected example is a graduation project of a Swiss designer Florian Kräutli - Human Antenna. Depending on one's location and movements, this modern carpet transforms the radio waves received by the body into audio sounds.  The more one walks, the more sound variety one receives: could be a fun activity, but in small quantities, as it probably becomes physically exhausting and too noisy after a while (check out the demonstration video below).

Carpets as an Inspiration 

As have been mentioned earlier, traditional carpet is regarded as an obsolete decoration element, thus allowing various transformations and modifications in the hands of the artists or designers. The works grouped in this chapter, however, take carpets one step further decomposing their structure, changing their physical state, materials or even depart from the carpet concept introducing something absolutely different and new. 

Video installation by Shannon Bool,  Forensics for a Mamluk (2013) was created during her residency at the Villa Romana in Florence, Italy. Bool picked up the giant Egyptian Mamluk carpet, (from the first half of the 16th Century) forgotten in the storage of Palazzo Pitti until it was rediscovered in a sealed chamber by Alberto Boralevi, a Florentine carpet expert, in 1982. 
"<...>, the video is concerned with the complexity of how we (the viewer) experience the “overload” of art history, or the Renaissance in Florence and, more simply, how we make a mark and locate our place in the world in relation to such overstimulation (i.e. Stendhal syndrome).Forensics for a Mamluk (2013) presents an analytical bird’s-eye view of a masterpiece of decorative art, an object forgotten due to the historical bias that positioned the decorative arts as inferior to painting and sculpture. However, the Mamluk Carpet, an abstract and sublime creation, represents the geometrical and mathematical sensibility of neighboring Islamic countries; cultures that provided essential contributions to Renaissance-era mathematics and scientific developments."
Source: from Walk Like an Etruscan exhibition press release, 2013

Central Medalion of Mamluk Carpet, Palazzo Pitti, Florence. Image source: Alberto Boralevi
Shannon Bool,  Forensics for a Mamluk (2013) video installation at Daniel Faria Gallery, September 12th - October 19th, 2013. Image source: gallery website

Kour Pour, born in 1987, has sold out all his seven paintings before his first solo gallery exhibition at Untitled even opened its doors. Art collectors turn into businessmen chasing young artists to later resell their works. Kour Pour - remember this name.

 Kour Pour, Heavenly Horses2013. Acrylic on canvas over panel 96 x 72 inches 243.8 x 182.9 cm. Image source: Untitled
Kour Pour, All The King's Horses, And All The King's Men, 2013. Acrylic on canvas over panel 96 x 72 inches 243.8 x 182.9 cm. Image source: Untitled
Kour Pour, Hunting Along the Silkroad2013. Acrylic on canvas over panel 96 x 72 inches 243.8 x 182.9 cm. Image source: Untitled
  Kour Pour, Never Ending Story2013. Acrylic on canvas over panel 96 x 72 inches 243.8 x 182.9 cm. Image source: Untitled 

Kour Pour, Piracy2013. Acrylic on canvas over panel 96 x 72 inches 243.8 x 182.9 cm. Image source: Untitled

Conceived specifically for the Venice Biennale, Untitled, 2013,  by an Iranian artist Afruz Amighi unites Venetian and Islamic geometric and vegetal motifs both in a woven polyethylene sheet (the material used for refugee tents) and the two chain sculptures that resemble Islamic brass lanterns and at the same time Murano glass chandeliers. A reflective pool of water (seeing which I recalled the pool of Isfahan palace complex), extends from the front of the arrangement and together with the lighting system create an incandescent and opulent atmosphere.

Afruz Amighi, Untitled, 2013, woven polyethylene, plexiglas, base metal chain, aluminium, dimensions variable, middle textile component 365 x 304 cm. Right and left chain components 396 x 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York
Afruz Amighi, Untitled, 2013. Detail. View from behind the installation to exhibition space entrance and the sculpture of Slavs and Tatars - Molla Nasreddin The Antimodernist, 2012

Pakistani artist, designer and independent curator Abdullah Syed's art covers topics of political instability, religion and secularism, Orientalism, Post-Colonialism and Capitalism, Muslim male identity formation as well as the post-9/11 political events. For the Flying Carpet series Syed folden US dollar bills in a shape of drones, stapled them together creating a shape of an oriental rug. Suspended, it flies over viewers' heads, throwing shades on the walls - a beautiful work, minimalistic in its aesthetics it cries out a heavy political message of the other side of anti-terrorism fight that took lives from over 1000 civilians since 2011 and forced many Pakistanis to fleet their tribal areas and settle in Karachi. 

Abdullah Syed, The Flying Rug IV installation, 2011, US dollar bills stapled together. Source: theculturetrip 

Abdullah M. I. Syed, The Flying Rug of Drones (ed. of 3), 2009. Box-cutter knife blades and stainless steel, 48 x 96 in. Image source: cheapandplastique blog
Abdullah M. I. Syed, Deconstruction of the myth of the flying rug - III (Orientalism for Sale series), diptych, 2012.
Hand-cut two US$ in Perspex, gold ink, debossed tool and currency collage on Vasli, US2$ flying rug: 6.6 x 15.5 cm. Currency collage: 6.8 x 17.5 cm, Image: Mahmood Ahmed. Source: Artnowpakistan 

Cristina Iglesias, Pavilion Suspended in the Room (III), 2005. Plaited wire and steel ropes, 233 x 480 x 365 cm. Image source: Reina Sofia museum

Saad Qureshi, As Fate Would Have It, Burnt prayer rug and coal, 2010

Farhad Moshiri

One of my favorite artists, Wim Delvoye (whose website is a piece of art by itself) creates extraordinary pieces by combining daily objects (car tires or concrete mixers) with Gothic and Baroque motives, crafts and architecture. Carpets did not evade from his creative mind as he made a series of Carpet Pigs sculptures out of oriental rugs. 

Wim Delvoye, Mashed, 2010, Indian carpet on polyester mould, 130 x 65 x 82 cm. Source: artist website
Wim Delvoye, Mughal Jail, 2010. Indian carpet on polyester mould , 120 x 60 x 25 cm. Source: artist website
Wim Delvoye, Sahand (2008). Stuffed carpet pig, 51 x 108 x 27 cm. Source: artist website
Wim Delvoye, Sahand, Stuffed carpet pig, 51 x 108 x 27 cm, 2008. Source: artist website
Wim Delvoye's exhibition in Louvre, 2012

Farid Rasulov's Carpet Interior series remind Shaki palace interiors with the exception that he uses carpet pattern on every single element of the rooms, but placing white animals in these mono-pattern interiors remind me Novotel 2007 commercial. In 2013 he transformed his CAD-designed project into an installation for Azerbaijan pavilion during the 55th Venice Art Biennial. 

Farid Rasulov, Carpet Interior, digital print on aluminium, plastification, 150 X 100 sm
 Farid Rasulov's Carpet Interior installation at the entrance to Azerbaijan pavilion for the 55th Venice Art Biennial. Photo taken in September 2013.

Slavs and Tatars collective, according to their official bio, "is a faction of polemics and intimacies devoted to an area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China known as Eurasia. The collective’s work spans several media, disciplines, and a broad spectrum of cultural registers (high and low) focusing on an oft-forgotten sphere of influence between Slavs, Caucasians and Central Asians." They mix humor with history, literature, intangible heritage and traditional crafts.  

"Mother Tongues and Father Throats acts as a backdrop and sometime seating structure to consider the guttural pleasures of the phoneme [kh] and its first cousin [gh]. Visitors are invited to sit down, relax, and read the Khhhhhhh publication."

Mother Tongues and Father Throats (installation view), wool, yarn, 300 x 500 cm, 2012, Moravian Gallery, Brno. Image source: artist website 
Slavs and Tatars - PrayWay, 2012, silk and wool carpet, MDF, steel, neon, 390 x 280 x 50 cm

"Wait a minute, I have seen that before!" popped up in my mind when I saw Babak Golkar's Need to Communicate, 2010 on Dubai-based gallery's website Indeed, it reminded me Faiq Ahmed's iridescent work dated three years earlier.

Babak Golkar, Need to Communicate, 2010, Persian carpet, acrylic paint, 61 x 61 cm
Faiq Ahmed, Flood of Yellow Weight,  2007,150 X 100 cm, Woolen handmade carpet. Source: artist's FB page

"I've been always fond of investigating and researching every detail of anything that had interested me and sometimes this researches reached inconceivable depths mixing up with my imagination. I’m heretofore harried by a question others have left in childhood – “what is inside?”. That’s why I’m changing habitual and visually static objects making them spatial, giving them a new depth. And this as if reveals the essence of this object – the object that was mediocre just a minute ago."
Faiq Ahmed 

"The artist explores composition of a traditional Azerbaijanian carpet by disjointing its structure and placing its canonic elements into open space. Carpet is more a time structure than a graphical one. Initially it was considered as a sophisticated sort of writing rather than a mere decorative piece. And to read those written signs is a temporal process. By separating those signs and symbols Faiq switches the carpet from two-dimensional plane to three-dimensional space where it comes to life. Basically the artist trenches upon a sancta sanctorum of Azerbaijanian carpet-making tradition. But being a modern-day version of a God’s fool the artist easily gets away with it. With this technique the artist translates traditional carpet language into universal language of contemporary art, making it understandable for the rest of the people." Source: artist's FB page 

 Faiq Ahmed, Rabbit, 2011, 150 X 100 cm, woolen handmade carpet. Source: artist's FB page
 Faiq Ahmed, Carpet Equalizer, 2012, 200 x 230 cm Plastic, woolen handmade carpet. Source: artist's FB page
Faiq Ahmed, Conversation, 2010, 150 X 100 sm Woolen handmade carpet. Source: artist's FB page
Faig Ahmed, Untitled, Jan 26, 2014. Source: artist's FB page

Faiq Ahmed, Piece of Tradition, 2012. Woolen handmade carpet, wood. Source: artist's FB page
Faig Ahmed, Desert Sand installation, 2012. Source: artist's FB page
Faig Ahmed, Desert Sand installation, 2012, the process. Source: artist's FB page
Faig Ahmed, Embroided Space, 2012. Variable size carpet threads. Source: artist's FB page

Bulgarian artist Pravdoliub Ivanov usually uses the very ordinary objects that are with us daily. For more than a decade Ivanov has been working with carpets revealing his attention to "hidden life of things" decomposing, rearranging and reassembling the rugs. 

Pravdoliub Ivanov, Confusion, 2002, installation, carpet, plastic wall skirts, dimensions variable, Collection-European Patent Office – Munich. 

Image source: artist's website

Pravdoliub Ivanov, Fairy Tale Device Crashed, 2013 Installation, cut carpet, hidden aluminium construction 275 x 420 x 88.5 cm,  

Vehbi Koç Foundation collection. Image source: artist's website

Pravdoliub Ivanov,Ornaments of Endurance, 2011, cut carpet mounted on wall, 334 x 226 cm Collection Vehbi Koç Foundation, Istanbul. 

Image source: artist's website

A Palestinian born in Lebanon, Mona Hatoum made a series of Afghan rugs depicting a shape of the Peters Project world map introduced in 1973 by removing yarns.

Mona Hatoum, Afghan (red and orange), 2008.Photo: Nicole Lenzen
 Mona Hatoum, Baluchi (orange and brown), 2008.Photo source: Galerie Chantal Crousel
Mona Hatoum, Shift, 2012, wool, 150x260cm.Photo: Whitecube 
Mona Hatoum, St. Gallen exhibition

One of the most prominent contemporary Pakistani artists Rashad Rana in his Red Carpet series used large photomosaic images of traditional Oriental carpets composed of tiny images of slaughterhouse carnage - "beautiful controversy" of national ideas of aesthetics and modern society's violence and problems. 

Rashad Rana, Red Carpet 1, 2007
Rashid Rana, Red Carpet 1, 2007, Detail
Rashid Rana, Red Carpet 1, 2007, Detail

My mom still keeps a craft I made out of paper in a kinder garden out of stripes of colored paper. We called it "basket" and only when I grew up I have discovered that this is the most basic and ancient techniques of pileless carpet waving. American artist Joell Baxter takes the "basket" technique to a whole different level. 

Joell Baxter, didn't I, didn't I, didn't I (three), 2013, Screenprint 8.25 x 16.5 image, 18.5 x 26.5 sheet, edition of 6. Image source: artist's website
Joell Baxter, Untitled (Magic Carpet), 2013 handwoven screenprinted paperImage source: artist's website
Joell Baxter, Untitled (Magic Carpet), 2013 handwoven screenprinted paper, DetailImage source: artist's website
Joell Baxter, Four Great Points, 2012, Screenprinted paper, hand cut and woven; glue 6 x 65 x 207 inches. Image source: artist's website

Dutch group We Make Carpets create their carpets not only from paper but anything one can stack on a flat surface: chocolate bars, cocktail paper umbrellas, pins, fireworks, you name it!

We Make Carpets, Paper Carpet
We Make Carpets, Bottle Carpet, part of theTaragalte Festival 2012, M'hamid, Morocco. Source: group's website
We Make Carpets, Bottle Carpet, part of theTaragalte Festival 2012, M'hamid, Morocco. Detail. 
Source: group's website
We Make Carpets, Candybar Carpet (made out of Twix and Bounty chocolates), commissioned by Slokdarm festival, Veghel, The Netherlands. Check out their website for more art

In my Artistic Twinship post I have already mentioned similarity between Sanan Aleskerov's work found in the Ornamentation catalog of Azerbaijan pavilion for Venice Art Biennale 2013 yet not on the display and installations by We Make Carpets. Aleskerov is a photographer and the work dated back to 2003 was a carpet-like composition from national fruits and sweets. Apart from my bad quality iPhone picture I made from a shiny catalog paper, to my knowledge, there is no other appearance of this image elsewhere.  

Sanan Aleskerov, Carpet, 2003, materials: different fruits, 100x400 cm

Inspired by carpets, designer Tonio de Roover's sofas might look like flying carpets if viewed at from some height, however their airy and light look is backed up with strong steel structure. The name of the furniture East meets West speaks for itself. 

Tonio de Roover, East meets West sofas made of steel, plywood, velcro and Persian carpets. Source:

At first, the Resm jewelry designed by artist Rasmina Gurbatova at first reminded me Austrian Frey Wille brand, but the artist keeps on impressing with original forms and shapes as she gets her inspiration from the national crafts and carpets. In a very short time Rasmina has built the first national luxury jewelry brand with its own aesthetic and brand equity based on heritage and traditions. For the moment, the brand has a bilingual Facebook page and recently a opened mono-brand boutique in one of the premium location busy streets of Baku, Azerbaijan. 

Resm jewelry. Image source: FB page
 Resm jewelry. Image source: FB page
Resm jewelry. Image source: FB page

Places where carpets are crafted also have a tradition of woolen crocheted socks called jourabs. Usually, they have geometric carpet motifs. When I was a child instead of wearing slippers or socks at home I had a pair of jourabs. They came into my mind when I saw designer Anton Repponen's Persian Shoes project out of pile carpets. Not sure whether technically this project is possible, but few companies have been producing shoes out of kilim - a pileless rug.  

Persian Shoes project. Image source: web page
Actual shoes made of original handmade pileless rug kilim. Image source: KilimArts

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