When is a rug more than just a rug? When it's refashioned by Azerbaijani artist Faig Ahmed into contemporary sculptures meant more for a wall than the floor. Everything but the look of these psychedelic carpets is traditional—down to the weaving technique, the dyes, and the materials.
Always the rebel (Ahmed was kicked out of the State Academy of Fine Art in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, when he stole textiles from the fashion department to drape around the school's Soviet-era exterior), the artist is nonetheless committed to research and ancient cultures, where textile traditions got their start. These unorthodox carpets make a powerful statement for an artist working in his native culture. "A traditional environment is a slow-moving social structure," Ahmed says of the drive behind his subversive practice. "One of the strongest visual and conceptual objects of such a society is the carpet."
These rugs go beyond being a visually stimulating, personal pursuit for Ahmed. He's also enacted change in the very closed, female world of Azerbaijani weavers. Initially facing resistance from the women, Ahmed now finds collaborating with them an easier process. "I see great changes and interest in my work," Ahmed says. "[My work has influenced] their perceptions of the boundaries—that those boundaries could be expanded."
You can catch Ahmed's work right now at NYU Abu Dhabi's campus in New York at 19 Washington Square North through August 29. His work will also be exhibited this November at Sapar Contemporary Gallery in New York and Yarat Contemporary Art Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan. For more, see faigahmed.com.