Lila Samari
HaftSamar at Yahoo dot com
(Photo: Masoud)

Reprinted from:
Art & People magazine
Tehran, No. 1, Summer 2003

Research: Craft

Tapestry, From The Past To The Present

Lila Samari, 2004

“Tapisserie” is a French word, and in English it is called “Tapestry”. It does mean a cloth with a simple weaving that its woof covers thread completely and creates various figures.
From 1971, at the time of Biennale of Tapestry in Lausanne, new meaning had considered for tapestry, and tapestry refer to textiles that have visual dimension and hang on walls or in statue shape, like in space or on the ground are placed.
From 90`s, tapestry regarded as subset of fiber art and used with a newer concept of woven fiber or non-woven fiber in most art galleries and in artist’s works of different countries. They are provided by different weaving techniques including: carpet weaving, short-napped coarse carpet weaving, varni, ikat, cloth weaving, knitting, crocheting, card weaving, macramé, silk-screen printing, batik, block printing, needling, felting, needle-lace, quilt, patchwork…
Weaving is reckoned among the oldest crafts. Its techniques are now so improved. The precious and beautiful clothes are produced very much in the world, but usually “the art of weaving”, known by tapestry that complex figures are created on them by using needle-lace. Tapestry came to us from old time and the samples of them survived in some countries. For instant, some works founded in Pazirik distinct in Iran, some piece referred to 1st century AD, with cross and pelican figures in Peru, the works of Coptic remained from 2nd till 9th century AD in Egypt, silk tapestry of Ko-Sseus in China relevant to Sangs era (960-1280), works of tapestry in Europe referring to 11th century, Bayeux needle-lace in France and Saint Cereon tapestry of Cologne.
Tapestry has been weaving in very large dimension and with short-napped coarse carpet knot. It was a warm coverage for churches and castles wall. The climax of its dehiscence in Europe was at the time of establishing Gobelin workshop in Paris, in 1662 that famous painters like Nicolas Poussin, Franscois Boucher, Charles Le Brun, Francisco Goya offered interesting designs to the workshop. 
The painters for tapestry design first draw the design on paper or carton and then weaver execute it.
This art, like woven figures continued for centuries in Europe, limited in custom. In the latter part of 19th century and in the early parts of 20th, some group of artists tried to change the conception and thoughts of weaving art. The essential changes that took place resulted in renaissance in this kind of visual art.
Three factors that played essential roles in this changes are as fallow:
1) William Morris’ Theory, English artist, who his theory based upon re-evaluation of handicrafts. The theory, which change conception and thought of handcrafts completely. In weaving field using strings and weave changed and had deserving effect on art of weaving in North and Central Europe, even Japan and United State.
William Morris and his friends, in England, believed that artist and craftsman should have close collaboration. This thought led to appear New Art Movement in Europe and America and changed the conception of architecture, handcrafts and other kind of arts.
2) Establishing Bauhaus Art School (1919-1933) in Germany: In this art school collaboration between artist and craftsman stressed. They believed in union of form (artist, designer) and technique (craftsman). 
3) Holding Biennale Exhibition in Lausanne, Swiss: In 5th exhibition of tapestry in 1971 some aspect on tapestry became propounded as fallow:
- The original matters can be of any kind of weaving fiber (natural or artificial) or any other kind of matters,
- Weaving techniques and the way of expression are free and everybody can weave in his/her own style,
- Usage of tapestry is free as well, and might be used as hanger on the wall, Soft statue, departing spaces in architecture, element of scene designer or in external spaces and environment.
Illustration in Iran after Islam dominant was forbidden and weaving pictorial carpet and short-napped carpet abolished. In Safavid era, pictorial art again flourished and weaving carpet and short-napped carpet in book-size and sometimes bigger than that performed for castles walls or Bazaar façade and curtain of passion plays.
There are very rare textiles from this era in the world’s museum. These textiles executed by different weaving, short-napped coarse carpet, brocade weaving, needle-lace, block printing, narrating climax of tapestry art in Iran.
Of course short-napped pictorial carpet workshops were ceased working at once in Safavid era for unknown reasons, in the latter part of seventeen century, in some cities including Kashan, Tabriz and Isfahan. But the obtained samples of pictorial short-napped carpet relating to sixteen and seventeen century confirmed that woven by silk fiber and gold or silver lace. The drafts of these pictorial short-napped carpets prepared by miniaturists of Shah Abbas and Shah Tahmasb courts.
Since 1956, weaving tapestry or pictorial short-napped carpet began working at Weaving Workshop of the Cultural Heritage Organization (Administration of Traditional Art) and it is revived after three centuries. In this workshop, that kind of weaving was called “Goblins Weaving”.
Skillful weaver like Jamshid Amini, Latif Taghdiri, tried to weave some painting of Kamalolmolk and Malekol Shoara Saba. From the contemporary painters like Bahram Alivandi, Jalil Zia Pour and Manouchehr Sheibani some painting is reformed to tapestry.
Pictorial carpets have special importance these carpets have been weaving for two centuries upon Mr. Parviz Tanavoli opinion. Indeed it is indicating the effects of photography and painting on artists involved in weaving. Weaving pictorial carpet was not easy, but it has been performed for usage of hanging on walls. The interesting subjects for painters to prepare design consist of historical portraits and epical, amorous, religious, mystical contents. Hesam-odin Arab Zadeh and Mahmoud Farshchian are the contemporary artists, who offered designs for these carpets. In 1976 an exhibition of pictorial carpet designed and held by Parviz Tanavoli that indicated innovation in this field.
The carpet called “Sar Allah” is a sample of religious content of the recent years that the Safdarzadeh Brothers woven it with 31`000`000 knots and 360x510 cm dimension in Isfahan. Its design adopted from Mahmoud Farshchian`s designs that illustrated on Ashura event. Now several workshops in Tehran and other provinces allocates for weaving pictorial carpet. 
In the field of pictorial felt, several exhibitions are held in Tehran. The first one was held Houshang Seyhoun’s (Eng.) works in Seyhoun Gallery in 1975. Two exhibition of pictorial felt also held in 1995 and 1996 in Golestan Gallery by Bahram Dabiri. “The figurative felt have rather painting quality” he said. “ I wanted to rebirth a sense in felt without changing its fundamental structure or its look to nature” he added.
The works of Bahram Dabiri executed by Ghodratolah Daroughe, Lor artist and a felt man of Brojerd province. He used natural (color of wool itself), traditional, original dye for felting. Ms. Mandana Barkashly is one of the persons, who worked on pictorial appliqué. She used the methods of embroidery, appliqué and silk-screen printing and painting on the cloth in her tapestry. Her works affected by Iranian miniature, calligraphy and Escher’s works. In her works often negative and positive spaces are seen.
Two exhibitions of appliqués by Firouze Saberi have held in Tehran. Her Works affected by pictorial carpet and a long-weft pile less carpet.
In recent years, several exhibitions of painting on cloth, batik printing, seal printing, silk-screen printing have held. Among the practitioner of this field two artists like Victoria Jahanshahi and Azita Esfandiari could be mentioned.
The first exhibition of modern tapestry is held in June 1992 in Golestan gallery and some works of Ms. Shahrzad Gharavi were presented there.
Seven pieces of Ms. Gharavi's works hanged on the walls of Kish Hotel and one 1000x128 cm is hanged on the guest hall of foreigner passengers of Mehr-abad airport. There is inclination to hot color and volume in her works like her paintings. Atefeh Sarrafi, Nasrin Keyhan, Farideh Shahsavarani, Neda Darzi, Zahra Rasoul Zadeh Namin, Sara Sadeghi and Lila Samari are other modern tapestry artist, who has had several exhibitions.
“My aim is to experience, to discover the potentials of the art of tapestry, so as to introduce the art of weaving behind the common approach of carpet, textile and cloth. Long antecedent in traditional textiles like carpet, short-napped carpet, brocade weaving and …in Iran supported this kind of cultural production. But introducing new features of the weaving needs to practice. The traditional thought believed that only the weaving of carpet has worth to do. I have been sensitive about the known forms and repetition of what had been done, but in using them, I acted upon them so as to not remind the designs of cloth or carpet. Because the soul of the work is neither carpet nor cloth, so the form, color, textile and mood of work should be innovative.” Atefeh Sarafi Says.
Most of tapestries of Atefeh Sarafi have 3 dimensions and this specification, distinct tapestry from other plane textiles. 
She says about choosing fiber: “We live at the time of plastic cities; concrete towers are planted instead of trees. Our identity is restraint by computers and good smell of nature forgotten in smokes, concrete and iron. The fibers I used in my works are mostly natural including cotton, cannabis, stem and leaf of the plants, wood and reed. Collecting these is for reminding nature and creating calmative atmosphere.”
Nasrin Keyhan uses different techniques of cloth weaving.
Farideh Shahvarani and Neda Darzi have held two group exhibitions in the field of conceptual art and using fibers. In the second exhibition of conceptual art in Oct.2002, at Contemporary Art Museum, some tableaus that applied various fibers exhibited. Those tableaus were about tattooing of south Iranian women’s hands and simultaneously a film about it is screened.
Zahra Rasoul Zadeh Yamin and Sara Sadeghi held several exhibitions in recent years as well.
Contrast is one of the specifications of Lila Samari’s works. Contrast in selecting fibers, contrast in texture, contrast in colors, contrast in form, contrast in techniques and metallic fibers, specially copper has particular place in her tapestries. She inspired of Iran traditional short-napped carpets designs and with her new look and creating changes in designs tries to connect the past to the present.







Research: Carpet & Craft
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