In Reimagined Carpets, Faig Ahmed Makes the Old (More Than) New Again

Everything old is new again. So goes the well-known saying—to which Azerbaijani contemporary artist Faig Ahmed gives a clever twist. In his gorgeously inventive carpets, the old and the new clash and coalesce in pieces that pay an unexpected homage to his country’s centuries-old tradition of carpet making.

  • Installation view of “Faig Ahmed – Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit” at Montoro12 Contemporary Art, Rome. Courtesy Montoro12 Contemporary Art and the artist.

For his first solo exhibition in Italy, Ahmed turns tradition on its head. Filling the space at Rome’s Montoro12 Contemporary Art is a rich array of his hand-woven, woolen carpets that channel the history of the craft, filtered through a thoroughly contemporary lens. But that history is not entirely lost in this celebrated artist’s works, as the title of his exhibition suggests. As if to assuage the shock of seeing the old made radically new, while also evoking the age-old wisdom that times inevitably change, its title is the Latin phrase, “Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit”—everything changes, nothing perishes.

  • Installation view of “Faig Ahmed – Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit” at Montoro12 Contemporary Art, Rome. Courtesy Montoro12 Contemporary Art and the artist.

     

Each of Ahmed’s carpets—which are displayed as wall hangings, freestanding sculptures, or deconstructed down to the thread-level and strung across the space as installations—begins in true 21st-century style, on the computer. This is where he works out his designs, which he then translates to paper, to scale, and, finally, transfers them to professional weavers, who make his visions manifest on hand looms. Often, he incorporates the original motifs and patterning of traditional Azerbaijani carpets, which he cleverly disrupts and breaks down in creatively jarring ways.

Among the works on view is Invert (2014), a large, wall-hung carpet covered with timeless geometric and floral motifs. On its lower half, these are woven in yarns dyed deep green, orange, red, and black, while on its upper half, the colors appear bleached-out, almost electric, as they would if you flipped the carpet over and looked at its underside. In another piece, titled Oiling (2012), the beautifully realized patterns devolve into a cascade of colors, which appear to run down its surface like paint, or, perhaps, a slick of oil.

Ahmed is deeply connected to his country’s carpet weaving and other artistic traditions. But he balances his respect for the past with his own, singular vision, claiming, “you can’t move forward without leaving some parts of tradition and culture behind.”


Karen Kedmey

Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit” is on view at Montoro12 Contemporary Art, Rome, Mar. 12–Apr. 24, 2015.

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