Updating Carpets as Art Objects but Missing Their Potential

How does one update this ancient form to make it relevant now?

Faig Ahmed, “Essence” (2015). (All images courtesy Sapar Contemporary and the artist)

What is unique about Faig Ahmed’s work is that is representative of that rare accomplishment: making traditional objects seem contemporary without making them utterly kitsch. His source material is the woven carpet, which has been produced not for centuries, but millennia. How does one update this ancient form to make it relevant now? Ahmed’s answer is to use the visual language of surrealism, with the added inflection of digitized forms.

His carpets, which are all hung on the wall, thus making emphasizing their status as non-utilitarian objects, erupt into black goop, draining down the wall in long fabric tendrils that pool on the floor, as in “Effusion” (2016). He takes another rug, this one oriented horizontally, and treats its structure like an image to be photoshopped, grabbing one side and (presumably in the design stage) pulling the fabric until it morphed into a psychedelic swirl in which the colors eddy in dizzying contortions “Wave Function” (2016). Ahmed makes another rug melt in the middle as it is seemingly pulled apart in a move similar to those paintings experiments Alberto Burri made seem artistically brave. In other pieces Ahmed makes the fabric disolve into pixelated blocks of color “Chelebi” (2016), or striated into lines like those in a very colorful bar code “DNA” (2016). These pieces can feel gimmicky, and the ones with lettering on them do feel more so, but Ahmed does not cheat. The works do consist of fabric woven into these delirious hybrids between updated design, traditional forms and a fine art aesthetic that ensures they will never be used underfoot. They should be. That is where the great potential of this work lies: in the idea that visual art, as it has been for millenia, might not be made arbitrarily separate from use, that it might be appreciated with the whole body, hands, eyes, and feet.

Faig Ahmed, “Effusion” (2016).
Faig Ahmed, “Chelebi” (2015)
Faig Ahmed, “Epiphany” (2015)

Faig Ahmed’s Source Code continues at Sapar Contemporary (at 9 North Moore Street) in Tribeca, Manhattan until January 25, 2017

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