Flatwoven Salanchak

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Posted by R. John Howe on November 22, 1998 at 06:17:34:

Dear folks -

One of the first things that strikes me about this piece is that it provides an instance for exploration of both the character and function of color in the weavings we study.

It seems clear to me that the frequently encountered mantra, "color, color, color," is useful and accurate in drawing attention to the importance of color to the work of the weaver and to our appreciation of it. But it is also a bit problematic in the sense that it runs rough-shod over how complex a phenomenon color is. Color range, color saturation, hue, clarity, palette (i.e. the shades thought to be associated with particular weavings and perhaps weavers), color contrast, and the relationship between color and design, are only some of the aspects of color that can be and often are, distinguished and drawn to our attention.

A too mindless chanting of "color, color, color" can also serve to divert our attention from the possibility of the extent to which, what we are noticing when we cite "color," is, in fact, a "complex" composed of color and design.

It seems to me that this lovely little piece illustrates well that our admiration of color is sometimes worth unpacking a bit to discover what it is that we are in fact pointing at.

First, although I think most of us would cite color as one of the things we like most about this piece, its color virtues do not depend on range of color. I can distinguish only perhaps five colors in it, something that would sometimes be a source of critique. But I do not think it is here. Why? Let us come back to that.

Second, it seems to me that the red in this piece is a remarkable "hue" and I think that I would also praise its "clarity" and "saturation." Some dyer know how to produce a wonderful red.

Third, the selection of the colors to use with the red mostly (the use of brown is more subtle) produce very sharp color "contrasts." There is no muddiness in this piece.

Fourth, a point closely related to the third, is that the weaver's selection and use of color in the individual design elements and in the overall composition of the piece, enhance the graphic attractiveness, yea power, of the piece greatly. The fact that the red ground surrounds generously the entire field of this piece moves the field portion of the field toward me and makes it seem to float. The use of brown with more substantial design elements at the base "anchors" this piece for me at that point and more mildly at the mirhab-like top. The zig-zag side border provides great energy and movement that is part of what prevents this rug's seeming great simplicity from producing boredom. The placement and shape of the little diamonds at the sides of the field (and the fact that this is the place where they are symmetrical diamonds)including the provision of good negative space surrounding even these little ornaments at this point, permits them to function in support of the zig zag border. And the gradual metaphorphosing of these symmetrical diamonds into trapazoids and finally into upward pointing triangles is another source of subtle but inexorable movement in this piece drawing one's eye to the center and the upward toward the mirhab-like top. I would want to argue as Carol Bier is doing nowadays http://forum.swarthmore.edu/geometry/rugs/ with other similar "simple" pieces, that they are not really simple at all and that they demonstrate convincingly that the relationship between color and graphic design is often important and worthy of our attention. It's not just "color, color, color." The fact of this relationship between design and color is, I think, why the relatively narrow color palette is not only not problematic but in fact enhances the peaceful, graphic power of this piece.

Could I buy it, Wendel?


R. John Howe

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