Re: Are better rugs peferentially preserved?/Harry's post

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Posted by H. Ulfan on June 22, 1999 at 16:17:20:

In Reply to: Re: Are better rugs peferentially preserved?/Harry's post posted by Sophia Gates on June 21, 1999 at 21:43:56:

: Harry, what an interesting post! I too am a painter, although I make far more messes than masterpieces! I disagree with most of you, however, on a number of points.

: First, what "people" like vs. what I like frequently is NOT the same. The painting I feel is true may strike others as ugly, raw, unfinished; the painting "people" like often strikes me as fussy, overdecorative, mannerist. I throw MANY of the latter in my drawers, or sell them for peanuts, or give them to people for birthday presents (I'm sure they're simply OVERJOYED, oi.)

: This would imply that the paintings of mine which might survive my demise would actually be my third-rate, easily accessible stuff. My sister, the Family Archivist, has piles of it. My good stuff may well wind up in the trash along with my ashes and bones.

: I think we might draw a parallel with good, commercial grade Bidjars & Quashquai's vs. gabbehs or Kurdish or Khamseh tribal pieces. I would submit that that there exist far more of the former than the latter - and yet which types more truly approach what we think of as "tribal" or "ethnographic" art? Even sophisticated collectors, however, might reject a really excellent Kurdish tribal piece due to its loose, single-wefted construction, because they might be able to buy a "respectable Bidjar" for the same price. How many people preferred the lovely Ersari ensi on an earlier Salon to the trashed old Cassin piece that Jim Allen argued in vain represented the "real thing"?

: I submit that people, in any time, any place, have a terrible tendency to prefer the neat, the safe, the familiar - the mediocre - and to preserve THAT. This would especially go for good, high quality commercial work vs. that shamanistic old ensi. Good ensis practically howl at the moon - how pretty is that? No wonder we can't find too many! Some of them have the proportions of a naked steel bridge, their great cross-beams holding back the darkness, braced against the wind, the desperate, starving wolves. I submit that most of those are gone - and yet we can find hundreds of safe, pretty Tekke carpets!

: Incidentally, I think it's presumptuous of us to decide whether or not the weavers were "artists" in the sense that we'd like to think of ourselves as such - how do we know what they felt when they wove? Some rugs are so soulful they practically speak - how could they have been created by a woman/women who weren't involved with their work? I've written before on the group nature of weaving - I find no contradiction here - just think about fresco painting! It took a whole team of guys to put up one of those monsters! Art in MOST cultures is not or was not the lonely thing it is in ours; we are children of the romantics, for better or for worse, and of the industrial age. Think of Egypt, or the Gothic Cathedrals - not just one man, but
: generations of people, felt the thrill and pride of creativity in the construction of their artifacts. Can we assume it is different for shepherd, dyemaster, spinner, weaver?

: As for your point about a mimimalist painting existing in the same room with the "busy" carpet - I rest my case. Once again, the neat, clean, safe painting has triumphed over the howl of life, and hangs proudly (and probably at great cost) in the grand salon. Given "importance" by the critics, i.e., the great arbiters of commercial taste, the piece will no doubt be passed from one wealthy generation to the next, and will thus wind up someday, preserved as an example of "the best of the 20th century", in some great museum.

: Finally, are we putting our own ideas on the rugs? Of course we are! They were woven with language-based symbols, in the case of tribal - especially Turkoman - rugs; they were, in the case of court or "High Style" pieces, expressions of the best "fine art" their cultures could produce; they were, in the case of gabbehs or other Southern Persian pieces, covered with symbols & fetishes and amulets dating back to the days of Ishtar, interspersed with private little prayers for happiness and fertility, or private dark little secrets of grief. AND THEY WEREN'T MADE TO PLEASE US! To communicate, yes - all art
: wants to speak, one heart to another; but to please? To beg to be preserved? How could these horse people, these herders of sheep and camels and goats, possibly have even envisioned a people who could fly in sculptures of steel and fire, who could destroy an entire herd in two minutes, an encampment in three?

: Only the most empathic observer, one with the courage to hear his own cries, listen to his own sad demons, can possibly begin to understand what they were trying to say - and how sad and silly our little "good" "better" "best" games seem in comparison with those voices calling out from the past.

: Sophia Gates
Dear Sophia , Steve et all;
Let me start by saying that I have always believed ( and always will ) that visual works of
art should "speak" (appeal) to the sensitivities
of the viewer strictly for what they are regardless
of any related stories. The truest form of
experiencing a visual creation is by letting our
sensitivity respond directly to what our eyes see
(a painting) or our hands touch (a statue). All the
while eliminating completely the "stories" such
as : how long it took to make , where do the
materials come from , is he/she a well-known
artist etc. etc. I always laugh when I read a
"description" of a painting or a statue by an
"expert" . If the artist wanted to tell us "stories"
- he/she would be a writer (storyteller). The
artist expressed himself fully by visual means
alone and the reactions and interpretations can
be endless . Each viewer can have his/her own.
It is interesting that many of the greatest creators
of visual art have been very poor verbally.
As for the "how long it took to make" and so on ,
it is well known among serious artists that in most
cases the best works (the most powerful
statements) take the least time. It was Chagall
who said toward the end of his career :" It took
me more than 80 years to paint like a child again".
I think that knowledge certainly enhances the
sensual ability to appreciate , but at the same
time can distort the pure sensation that I spoke
of before.
Now , back to rugdom. I think that because of
the "group project" nature of the creation , it
would be harder for each of the artists involved to
express themselves to the same extent that one
painter can (for example) and at the same time
the reaction of the viewer requires more background "stories" (maybe?). However , I do
believe that the purest and most significant
judgement here too should be based on the
tangible merits (or lack thereof) of each piece.
So , to relate to your last comments , Steve , I
think that perhaps less importance should be
placed on the technical features when one
"falls in love" with a rug. I am aware that this
approach will be quite different from the oriental
way of appreciation. But , after all , it is us in the
West that apply our feelings (and thoughts) to
their artistic creations.

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