A graduate of the Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Art in Baku, Faig Ahmed steeps his work in tradition. A recent body of work includes his Carpet series. Azerbaijani carpets have been around forever. “Undestroyable icons,” he calls them. They’re known for their formal qualities. They’re known for the symbolic value. They’re artistic and spiritual. They also serve a practical purpose.
He might say that they’re “undestroyable” but that doesn’t mean that he can’t make them relevant for a contemporary world. The result is a body of work that builds from the past. It shows how art that we think doesn’t change can continue to develop its traditions. He shows that it has vitality. That it can hold its own in contemporary art discussions. Tradition versus novelty. History versus modernity. And regionalism versus globalism.
His work updates long-standing traditions and attests to the carpets’ craftsmanship. He overlays traditional carpet designs with digital compositions. Then he sews them. Sometimes the results are idiosyncratic and whimsical. In Rabbit, for instance, he places an exuberant, smiley pink rabbit in the bottom right corner. He makes Flood of Yellow and Changeable Turquoise look pixelated, as if blown up from a digital image.
He also creates sculptures that incorporate aspects of these updated carpets. In Carpet Equalizer, the carpet lays on the floor. Portions of the carpet’s colors rise up like three-dimensional rainbow pyramids. In #5 and Section, carpet segments appear from within white, geometric sculptures.
Ahmed has shown at the Venice Biennale, at the Moscow’s National Center of Contemporary Art and at the Islamic Art Festival in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. He’s also been short-listed for this year’s Jameel Prize for Contemporary Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum.