Textiles have played a long and important role in shaping our visual culture.
One only has to pop down the road from our London Studio to see the Raphael Cartoons in the Victoria and Albert Museum to understand the vision, skill and labour that goes into these impressive works.
There was a time when tapestries were the height of luxury for interiors, Henry VIII asked for gold and silver thread ones for his Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace, whilst the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries hung on the walls of Hardwick Hall for centuries.The modern movement, particularly the works of Russian Constructivists such as Liubov Popova, re-established this art form, combining art with a utilitarian ideal and giving textile art a platform that continues to this day.
One such artist whom has furthered this long and illustrious tradition is Alexandra Kehayoglou. We spoke to Alexandra for the blog to find out what inspires her work.
Did your family history play a part in choosing textiles as a medium for your artwork?
I grew up surrounded by rugs. My Greek grandparents migrated to Argentina carrying with them this textile tradition of rug and carpet making. Trying to find myself as an artist, I found that these resources had always surrounded me and that it was my challenge to use them, to potentiate and re-signify them. So I started to develop my work using technologies that were available in the textile industry that my family owns. I realized then, that this was a knowledge that I owned, a media that was natural in me, that flowed through my genes, and to use it became inevitable for me.
Both Argentina and Turkey are colourful and vibrant countries, do they inspire your work?
My inspiration comes mainly from the landscape I inhabit, in the case of Turkey, it has to do with the patterns weaved in the shoes my great aunts gave as presents to my grandmother for her wedding, all of those ancient flower designs, pink, red and green coloured have stayed with me since I first held them in my hands.
Your studio looks like a wonderful space, how did you come to choose this workshop?
Thank you! My studio is inside of the factory owned by my family, El Espartano. I guess it made sense to be part of this tradition also by having my studio there.
Having studied at art school and having an interest in fine arts (particularly painting), how do other art forms inspire your work?
I develop large format sculptures in textile media as my main artistic poetic. I’m interested primarily in the production processes linking art to the craft and developing a functional work of art , where the knowledge of materials, technique and the unifying concept of the work are combined as inseparable components.
The style that I’ve created is an abstraction of landscapes from my country, the territories that I inhabit and I wish to prevail from time passing. They are native landscapes that I treasure as memories. I would like everyone that looks or uses my pieces feel that he is inside of a new context, a new landscape, that is why I created the big pieces that have the format of infinites, to me my pieces are portals that have the power of taking you to where your memories are.
The main theme of my work are the pastizales from the Pampa Argentina (argentine grasslands). I relate the concept to the fact that the wool comes from sheep that are fed with that same piece of land.
I also try to involve in my work a deep conscious about the use and misuse of nature, flora and fauna, and the way we relate to them. The landscape that I portray in my artworks is what conditions the use of colors, texture and volume. The materials that I use to weave are surplus production that I select carefully.
As interior designers, we’d love to know more about production. Could you explain the process? Any unique details? Are all your pieces hand-made? What materials do you like to use?
I hand tuft all of my rugs manually considering each of them as a piece of art. They are done from recovered or discarded material from production. Wool in perfect shape that is dyed according to each design. Each rug is unique and unrepeatable with a certain texture, volume, colour and format. Depending on the complexity of the piece, the production time can take from one to several months.
Your work for the Dries Van Noten S/S15 show was breathtaking – how did this project come about and how did you approach it?
Dries Van Noten contacted us through a fashion producer called Villa Eugénie who had seen my work online.The design of the carpet is a pastizal (grassland/pasture) the pastizal is one of the most representative pieces of my work. It is a concept I have been developing in textile media for several years as a way to establish a link between the tradition of my family and my interest and consciousness about the environment and our cultural heritage full of species that are now endangered.
Van Noten was characterized by establishing a strong link with the arts and crafts in his work as a designer. The collection presented was inspired by an iconic part of the history of art, introducing nature as the main component; Ophelia by John Everett Millais that sits on a bed of lilies and moss vegetation in a lake.
The whole process of inspiration of Van Noten's collection was secret even to us, to see the finished proposal in the show was incredible, I was in awe to see that my pasture served as a complement to the vast universe of textures, colors and juxtapositions of textiles created by Van Noten. Somehow, it became the imagined garden foliage and herbs surrounding landscape of the catwalk.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently showing at Arteba Fair here, in Buenos Aires. And during July will be participating in Friday Late at the Victoria & Albert Museum in the UK.