Selected kilims from The Collection of Brigitta and Ayan Gulgonen
The exhibition takes place in Milli Reasurans Art Gallery, Tesvikiye cad. 43-57, Istanbul, from 3 May to 23 June 2006.
Weaving is an ancient art form with a history as elaborate and extensive as the textiles themselves; and, fortunately for art (and cultural history) enthusiasts, many details of this artistry are recorded and preserved. The enduring history of weaving, and the creations themselves, in addition to ongoing studies that propose modern-day human perspectives and perceptions, are what guide us on this particular foray into the slit tapestry weavings from Anatolia.
Artful minds often compare these flat woven textiles to language itself. The designs in these kilims are in fact a visual language, an expression of cultural symbolism and myth. For this reason, the kilims clearly signify something more, something beyond just flat weaves for domestic use. And so it is with (written) language: the literal depiction of symbols representing speech, on a page for example, signifying too (hopefully) something more than just words on a page.
Language is constricted by the rules of grammar, rules that are not malleable, though they are limited in number. Abiding by a body of grammatical rules, the speaker must then engage in a variety of complex vocal sounds, social cues and responses; from hand and facial gestures, to body stance, to the tone of one’s voice.
Anatolian kilims also conform to their own rules of “grammar”, the enduring principles of a visual language, the body of artistic rules, found within the form of warp and weft. The weavers of kilims not only use the nuances of weaving to create timeless, avant garde (before their time?) designs; with colored and undyed wool warps and wefts, they also manage to transcend the two-dimensional medium of the loom. Just as words on paper can be limiting, the weavers aspire to communicate at a higher level. And so, it seems, the language of color, design, space, steps up to a third dimension, and the kilim’s woven tongue talks directly to the artful eye.
The human mind imagines innumerable things at one time, all of which remain in the mind and constitute the very essence of human consciousness. The metaphors apparent in kilims create unlimited sensory input, culminating in myriad thought processes as one attempts to comprehend the intent of a weaver who lived so long ago. Metaphors or symbols of certain concepts have been handed down from mother to daughter, a tradition that is imparted from one generation to the next. Thematic similarity of some kilims to others of the same genre may be accounted for by the weaver’s adherence to a single prototypical ornament, signifying a continuation of and respect for cultural tradition.
The visual beauty of singular kilims as textile art is as varied and splendid as the weavers’ hands, their idiosyncratic variations and initiative they put into a conventional composition. The comparison of these Anatolian kilims to 20th century abstract art is an intuitive exercise. Fortunately, our education and culture contributes to this perception of kilims as modern art; essential if these weavings are to be viewed and treated as fine art.
The symbolic language expressed in these kilims inspires the viewer to reflect upon the traditions of the weavers from a past era, the cultural context from which these timeless weavings emerged. But it is our personal understanding of the weavings as two-dimensional art that transcends these strictures, and transforms itself in our minds into an alternative work of art: essentially, a second kilim stands out and speaks to us from the original.
Location: Milli Reasurans Art Gallery Tesvikiye cad. 43-57 Istanbul tel:+90.212.2301976
Seref Ozen, Cocoon, Istanbul 27 May 2006