Posted by Vincent Keers on 05-10-2002 11:51 AM:

Rugs and kilms aren't art

Hi Michael,

The beauty of Art is: It's useless.
Because it's useless it gives us time outs.
A rug or kilim isn't Art. It's designed.
It has poor design or great design.
With rugs and kilims it has culteral related, embeded design.

Art is created by Artists who knew something about their tools like: Paint, canvas, marble, colors, notes, tempo etc.
If the paint releases itself from the canvas it's goodbye Art. If a sculpturer finds a crack in the marble he's working with, he stops.
If a weaver knows the red she uses will bleed, (because her fingers turn red), she will not stop because she needs the kilim or she needs the money. She'll make a junk kilim.
If I hang this junk kilim against my wall, I'm transforming it into junk "art".
If I replace the bleeding reds for better reds, then it has become my restored kilim.
Nothing to do with Art.

Best regards,

Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-10-2002 12:23 PM:

Yes, Vincent, art is useless - and therefore important.
Some years ago I saw a French pirate film. In the 18th century the French and the British fought for the supremacy in the Indian Ocan. The British had a fearsome
arsenal of war ships. The French kings spent their money for their mattresses, no money left .... So they encouraged poor guys to risk their lives for them, gave to them the permission to fight English ships, steal the booty
and pay 50% to the King. The only advantage: in France they would be executed for being pirates. The young hero, the son of a poor fisherman from Normandy, fought with an aristocratic English lieutenant, and they fought for the heart of a beauty. It was a French film, so the French guy got her. At the end they met at a diplomats ball in Paris. The English guy shouted at the French guy: Pah, you French are thieves ! You fight for the money ! But look at us: we Englishmen fight for the honour !
So the French guy answered: well, that is fair ! Everybody fights for what he does not have !

In this sense I find art indispensable. What I find exciting in early kilims, village rugs or even in excellent modern pieces: what the brain of so called "uneducated" people can create. I think it sometimes can be art. Going through hundreds of antique pieces year by year I am amazed how small the percentage of
"great" pieces is - though they had better selected wool and professional natural dyes at that time. But some are there.
Building up measures is tough, may be we will not succeed as the chances to study the original context disappear in the Near East. But it is not hopeless.

Wait a bit - we have made a technical mistake so the promised pictures of two important kilims will come tonight, not today. But then think it over again !



Posted by Steve Price on 05-10-2002 01:43 PM:

Hi Guys,

The debate over whether rugs and kilims are art has surfaced here from time to time, and I don't think it's gotten much beyond exchanges of "I'm right, you aren't". The position that nothing with utilitarian aspects can be art is at odds with mainstream thinking. It eliminates everything more than 500 years old, almost everything that people consider to be art that's less than 500 years old. It excludes architecture entirely, along with religious music, pottery of just about every culture - almost everything except post-1500 painting and sculpture and closely related things.

I remain in the mainstream on this one.

Steve Price

Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-10-2002 02:25 PM:

Hi Steve,
I will join your opinion. Hopefully soon we will see the mentioned pictures: then it hopefully will become clear that utilitarian things may be art as well. But one has to build up measures - that brings in a kind of intersubjective
consensus, a process, as for sure not everything utilitarian more than 500 years can seriously be regarded as art. In the fog that disables us to look to the original context that these things were embedded in at a certain distance observations and proper assessments stop and all we do is to perform our own phantasies about that past. The art of assessment art would be to catch the point where this happens.



Posted by Vincent Keers on 05-10-2002 07:22 PM:

All right.

Then you didn't get my point.

What nobody can explain to me why this kilim under discussion is Art.
If this kilim, with it's very obvious simple design in wich you found some
unique exra perspective because the designer rubs your nose in, has an A status.
If more then 50% of the kilim is lost because the weaver made a wrong choice.
Then It seems to me your standard is low.
Think the first thing needed is a sort of standard for quality and it seems
our standard for quality are different.
Bleeding dyes = trash
Rugged = trash
Corrosive dyes in a kilim = trash

In short: Everything that limmits the lifetime of a textile because of production
failure is trash.

Once I was asked to estimate the value of a very handsome rug.
When I opend up the pile I noticed the weftdye was bleeding into the knots.
I couldn't put a pricetag on the rug. It was trash for me.
I was overruled by some appraisers apointed by Dutch law. My verdict was to hard.
I told them that their quality standard would flood the market with lowgrade
production etc.

Maybe someone out there can explain to me the difference between a corrosive black
or a bleeding red in a kilim!

Best regards,

Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-11-2002 11:01 AM:

Hallo Vincent,
provocative statements enhance debates, thank you ! Let me try to sort out things from my perspective.
An extreme rare fragment , quite ragged. An A (-) status, the location (semi-) known. This does not elevate it to be "art", it just makes it possible to achieve something with further research. With a C-piece such research is impossible or depends on luck (that a similar A-piece will come up later).
The picture was barely visible so its status was documented, a bit poorly, may be, and then it was restored to the point where the picture was visible anew. For the restauration the same rare variant of aubergine-black was used in order not to disturb the colour balance of the piece. May be I misunderstood you but there is no dye in the piece that bleeded. Each step that has been done (including the auxilliaries) is documented so there is no hole in its "processing history".
I gave some remarks how I interpete the importance of this piece within a group of early kilims of that region. In my interpretation this piece (or some ancestor of it, sorry, this is not even a small group ! ) was created by a kind of creative decision by a weaver, deviating from what we suppose like tribal weaves were done ( eternal traditions using motifs of quasi-religious meaning).
How beautiful or boring people find it the future will see. I find it striking - but I did not say everybody must join this opinion.
For "qualities" we should first define what we mean. If you argue for modern weaves to be used today - no single point to contradict you. I put one thing on top: weaves today are used in rooms that are manyfold lighter, brighter than Anatolian village houses or mosques so the demands for the lightfastness of the dyes in modern creations should be much higher !
But this is a very early kilim, 200 years or (most likely) even a bit older. "Rugged=trash" one can't demand. Simply we do not know any other piece with this design in a better condition. Most of such early kilims are quite rugged (compare the Rageth book). Because the collector pay for what they think "age" is it became a necessity for some people to help the look of kilims of that age that unfortunately are in mint condition, so most potential customers cannot see the age and are not willing to pay the price. I mentioned such an example - and I will add the opposite one: a certain group of kilims ( compare Rageth, pl. 36) we know only from very rugged, fragmented pieces. The only one that looks like made yesterday is pl. 1 in the Essen catalogue, an A-piece.
And Vincent: to put some nails into the dye bath ( with the potential that later the yarn corrodes - wasn't this a habit that you recommended some days ago?

The difference: a corrosive black results from the improper application of iron to wool, together with plant extracts in the dyeing process. A bleeding red is a result of an improper handling of the dyeing process with synthetic dyes ( too many different potential sources for this problem).



Posted by Sophia_Gates on 05-11-2002 12:23 PM:

Great Art, Bad Craft

Hello, everyone.

Before all the bleeding reds in the world are thrown into the trash, let me remind you all of the great Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps - in fact I'd say definitely - one of the greatest artists of all time. Not to mention, a scientist as well.

Any argument? Didn't think so.

So - one of his great paintings, the Last Supper, with which I'm sure you're all familiar, was painted on the wall of a refectory in a monastery. So expertly created is this piece, with the perspective continuing the sight-lines of the actual room, that the people in it appear to be seated right there. And beyond its technical brilliance, beyond its scientifically perfect proportions, beyond even its beauty, is the deeply moving spiritual aura of the piece.

Few would disagree with my analysis. So?

So - the painting was produced with oils, not well known in Italy at the time, on a wall which suffers from dampness. It began falling apart, showing moisture blooms, etc., even during the lifetime of its creator! Leonardo, ever inventive, simply hadn't considered the awful combination of oil paint on moist wall and his masterpiece has proved a nightmare for conservationists ever since.

So? Is it bad art? Non-art? Trash?

I think not!

Posted by Vincent Keers on 05-11-2002 04:18 PM:


Dear Sophia,

You should throw out the bleeding red rugs. Poor quality.
Think Leonardo agrees with me. Don't think he could have done his work of Art any better.
But I'm sure he didn't do this again and again and again and again.............
And maybe you dilute your paint with benzine. Don't think so.
Your paintings will be seen in the next 500 years and more.

Three possibilities for bleeding reds:
1 The weaver was cheated by the dye master.
2 The weaver allready had red fingers.
3 The weaver produced for export only.
Don't think all bleeding reds are home made by the weaver.
She took her wool to the dyeplant that was en route.

Dear Michael,

It seems this extra perspective the weaver "invented" is a more Western interpretation of the design or
we give it that interpretation.
Rug design is flat, two dimensional. Made in Islam

No.....I didn't recommend the nails. That's not what I said. It's a foolish rural habit! Again and again and again and again etc.
Djee...I know the differenc between bleeding reds and corrosive blacks.
What I do not understand is: If the kilim had had bleeding reds should we restore the bleeding reds!!!?
Dont think so. I, and I think you shouldn't take up the hard work in restoring it with new reds not to think of new bleeding reds. I think bleeding reds do as much damage as corrosive black.
Why then restore corrosive black?

Best regards,

Posted by Sophia_Gates on 05-11-2002 06:30 PM:

Bleeding Reds

Dear Vincent:

Your points are well-taken! But I'm confused about the reds. First, what Michael said about improper washing damaging the dye lake seemed to indicate that this could loosen dyes and perhaps cause them to wander around a bit. Whether or not they adhered to the wool in the area, i.e., give the bleeding appearance, he seemed to indicate, would be a result not of the loose dyes, whether natural or synthetic, but of the condition of the wool itself. Michael said, proper Ph wool won't absorb dyes period, but if the Ph of the wool is disturbed for some reason, for example oxidization, pollution etc., then any loose dye particles could be absorbed by the wool.

So, very old rugs with excellent, fully saturated vegetable or insect dyes could show signs of bleeding, if the ph conditions were right and if the dyes were damaged by improper washing.



Secondly, I'm not sure all bleeding reds are a sign of poor craftsmanship. Navajo rugs are notorious for bleeding reds and it's a symptom of their extreme lack of water. They barely have enough water to live on, let alone thoroughly rinse their wool before weaving.

Finally, I have an absolutely gorgeous antique Kurdish bagface with fabulous colors, which I bought from Samarkand (the gallery). The red is rich, deep, and fully saturated. It's the perfect color for the rug, considering the rest of the colors. AND it shows some pink around the wefts. Shall I throw it out? If any rug is "art", this rug is, in terms of sheer beauty. Now I am worried that it is mere junk

Oh dear. So you understand my confusion!

Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-12-2002 04:38 AM:

Dear Sophia,
in order not to confuse our reader I want to answer these questions in the thread "If you can't wash it, how do you clean it?" . Okay ?



Posted by Michael Bischof on 05-12-2002 05:47 AM:

answer to vincent

Dear Vincent,
of course a bleeding red is somehow poor quality. - We had guide some American textile connoisseurs through a spectacular Turkish village. The traditional skills are still there. Some women wanted to sell some of their little bags ( canta, heybe) done with different technques
( cul, soumak, flat weave) and coraps. What a disappointment to our guests: everything only with synthetic dyes ! So they proposed: what if we propose that they make it again, but with natural dyes ?
I think on that day we could not manage to explain to our guests why this is so: in old days there war only one technqlogy. People did not master it except some minor dyes ( brown from walnut shells, mixed green-brown-yellows from certain roots, sometimes broken yellows obtained from the local flora, like "sütlegen" from Euphorbia sspec.). So they took their yarns to the professional boyaci. He made natural dyes, no alternative. Do not think it was cheap !
We have done quite some research into the history of that economy ( some details are with Steve Price) ,based on the amoun of labour involved in it. To make a real madder red ( that can rival with the best reds we know from antique pieces) costs about 15 $/kg, today.
How can women with a monthly income of about 100 $ ( a carpetweaver in a village) afford to buy that expensive dyes for her cantas, heybes, kilims, carpets ... in the vague hope that some day some tourists might come ? We advised the women not to do it: if the tourists come they will want to buy cheap "at the source" and you would not profit from your weave !
Just in order the show that we did not sell empty words we got some of their yarns, dyed it at the civit dye plant in Konya, paid some weavers for weaving bags in the old techniques and designs ( they do not need any design for that). The result were cantas like I have seen may be 4 -5 in 25 years: mint condition, no use. Some of them we gifted to certain clients for antiquities, some we gave to some dealers at the coast and in Istanbul on consigment. The result ? I am ready to listen for suggestions ...

To restore bleeding reds ? No, that would be nonsense. Such a piece is most likely a late
unimportant thing. To restore it with good reds is possible. But would happen then ? Look at the ACOR piece, but this had a happy end. - The black was repaired in order to make the picture of an early kilim fragment visible because some people, including me, found this piece is very important . That does not mean that I vote for restoring many corrosive blacks, just in this case. With corrosive black details of the dyeing process kill the wool whereas with bleeding reds they attack the dealers profit and create aesthetical problems.



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