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Faig Ahmed: Tradition Meets Progress with Azerbaijan Carpets

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Faig Ahmed is an artist based in Baku, Azerbaijan. Using a mixed media approach and knowledge of traditional carpet weaving, he reworks the conventional structure of the rug by disassembling the threads and rearranging them. Ahmed superimposes digital imagery into the rug design which often creates optical illusion. He also uses geometric forms to transform the carpets into chic sculptures. Ahmed is not only creating new boundaries with his modern transformation of traditional art, he is creating a visual marriage of past, present and future, where contrasting aesthetics are crashed together and harmonize boldly, making something new. Many people view Ahmed’s work as a representation of the social and political change occurring throughout the East.

“Tradition is the main factor creating the society as a self-regulated system. Changes in the non-written rule happen under influence of global modern culture.” Faig Ahmed.

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About Faig Ahmed
– Ahmed graduated from the Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Art in Baku in 2004 and works with various media including painting, video and installation.
– Most recently, he has been studying the history and aesthetic of traditional Azerbaijani carpets so he may reinterpret this cultural symbol with contemporary relevance.
– Ahmed superimposes digital patterns onto traditional compositions to create works with bold optical illusions and he applies these forms to sculptures and 2-dimensional works.

– He has been included in exhibitions at Sotheby’s and Phillips de Pury in London, the 52nd Venice Biennale Pavilion representing Azerbaijan and The Islamic Art Festival in Sharjah, UAE.

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Sculpture

“His works take what has traditionally been a two-dimensional craft and gives it new life in the third-dimension – stretching elements of his fiber based work into space, and transforming it into far more than a floor covering. Even though they are real, and made with traditional techniques, other examples of his work stretch traditional patterns horizontally, giving his flat pieces the look of digital reworking.” From Faig Ahmed’s Website

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“The eastern culture is so very rich and saccharine. Putting the pieces of the carpet into the smooth as if a part of a car or of a glamorous and functional shape, I’m fashioning the carpet into a different meaning, a secondary one. It as if starts being an inner part of this minimalist form, gaining volume at the same time. As if all of the ornaments of the carpet acquire a prolongation inside the carpet.” Faig Ahmed

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“The carpet is a symbol of invincible tradition of the East, it’s a visualization of an undestroyable icon. In my art I see the culture differently. This is more of expectation of a reaction because it’s exactly the change of the points of view that changes the world.” Faig Ahmed

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History of Azerbaijan Carpet Weaving
Azerbaijan has been well-known as an authority and center for arts and crafts since Ancient times. Archeological digs of this territory have discovered signs of highly developed agriculture, stock raising, metal working and ceramics, as well as carpet-weaving that date as far back as the 2nd millennium BC. Carpet weaving tools from the 4th and 3rd millenniums BC were discovered during the Gultapin excavations. Herodotus, Claudius Elian, Xenophont and other ancient historians all mentioned Azerbaijan carpets having spread by the time of the Bronze Age. During the Sassanid Dynasty (3rd-7th centuries) carpets made from gold, silver and silk threads and decorated with jewels began to appear and were greatly celebrated. In the 13th-14th centuries, Azerbaijan exported huge numbers of carpets to other countries.
Different occasions call for different carpets; Wedding ceremonies, birthing, medical treatment, mourning rituals, and prayer. Girls sit on special carpets to tell fortunes and sing traditional songs during the New Year Celebration. Carpet weaving in Southern and Northern Azerbaijan has been influenced by the many changes the territory has undergone, such as changes in religions, tribal cultures, and political states. The designs used in the carpets and the way they are applied reflect the daily life and customs of the communities who produce them. This is fitting because the carpet weaving originated in rural huts. Over time, the tradition and craft came to be amongst the most celebrated and important of the arts. The heads of state gave high value to the art of carpet weaving, and glorified the most talented weavers, as did the great poets. The carpet history is typically divided into the following four main periods:

• I – the early stage of the carpet development. The carpet ware is very simple, without any motifs and patterns. The first palas and djedjims appear.
• II – introduction of the kilim weaving practice by the intricate threading technique.
• III – weaving of shadda, verni, sumakh, zili. The period of simple and complex whipping techniques.
• IV – introduction of the knotted pile weaving. Both from the technical and artistic standpoints this stage can be considered the acme of the carpet making.

Azerbaijani carpets are divided into two general groups: pile and pileless. Within each group there are subdivisions and different styles of rug. The pileless category is associated with the early period of weaving and there are 8 main types: Palas, Dzhejim, lady, kilim, shedde, verni, zili, sumakh. These rugs are classified based on color, richness, composite structure and weaving style. Quba School, Baku or Absheron School, Shirvan School, Ganja School, Gazakh School, Karabakh School. These are the 7 different weaving schools is Azerbaijan. They are separated based on patterns, composition and technique.