by Michele Hardy
It is Monday morning. In Calgary we woke up to a blizzard and the promise of a frigid week ahead. That said, Nickle Galleries was warm and vibrant last week as we celebrated the unveiling of a new public art installation and a number of exhibition openings, including Ram Horns and Scorpion Tails: Textiles from Uzbekistan. This exhibition is the first major textile exhibition to be mounted in the new Nickle Galleries (formerly, The Nickle Arts Museum) on the campus of the University of Calgary, in Alberta, Canada.
Ram Horns and Scorpion Tails includes a variety of Uzbek textiles purchased by Dr. Lloyd Erikson in Istanbul in the early 90’s. Prominent among them are a series of okenli-ghilam–large textiles composed of alternating strips of narrow woven cloth. They features bands embroidery worked on white, as well as bands of warp patterned weaving, mainly in red, green, yellow, black and white. Motifs include both Islamic and pre-Islamic motifs, notably: rams horns, stars, sun disks, combs, and cockscombs etc. The kochkarak, motif, for example, is a rhomboid surrounded by ram’s horns. It features both in warp patterned, woven bands–small in scale, geometric and contained–as well as on the embroidered bands where they vary in scale, are curvilinear, and expansive. Their repetition and variation suggests, not only cultural importance, but also a dynamic balance between tradition and invention.
The exhibition also includes three gagari-ghilam textiles—two of warp patterning, a third in double weave. The latter is a unique textile that is likely only a portion of what was a much larger cloth and is double sided. Two samples of ghilam (knotted pile carpets) and a small selection of embroideries complements the exhibition, illustrating the both the breadth of Uzbek textile technology as well as the prevalence of certain designs and a shared orientation to nomadic life.
Nickle Galleries is housed within the Taylor Family Digital Library at the University of Calgary. It offers an important counterpoint to the use of digital research material within the library. We strive to offer students opportunities for experiential learning, to develop visual literacy, and engage with unique primary sources from Western, Central and Eastern Asia.
Exhibition continues until January 11, 2014.
All images by Dave Brown