Published on February 10th, 2014 | by Chris Campbell0
The Vigorous Life of a Loom
I was very lucky to converse with Argentinean yarn guru, Alexandra Kehayoglou. She creates carpets that simulate rich meadows, lush gardens, and many other sumptuous landscapes.
Unless noted otherwise all images by Alexandra Kehayoglou.
CC: You started making these rugs by chance. You were weaving a tapestry when a foot of fabric fell, creased and bunched. You noticed it gave the rug a cool effect, a contoured topography. You said to yourself, ‘I must continue this!’ What was this eureka moment like?
AK: I guess it appeared as a threshold. A door that opened into a new way of conceiving my work. My research as an artist had started with these diorama boxes in which I tried to freeze a scene. An artificial miniature beach landscape in which the spectator could submerge. But these were models; they were small and packed in a box. When that tapestry unfolded on the floor I realized I could create those landscapes, following the same idea of time being frozen, but this time in a human scale. The click meant that I could embrace my family’s tradition into my personal work. It started making sense.
CC: The idea of a frozen landscape is really interesting. How do you pause time?
AK: This knowledge appears to me by intuition; it presents to me through the experience of sitting in the rug landscape. My pieces are experiential – they invite me to sit, stand or meditate, not in the conventional way, but in the way the stillness suggests.
I started realizing that time was arbitrary, that we can choose the way it develops. A minute is said to last 60 seconds, but a second can last more than a second. In a frozen landscape I manage time. This collapsed my idea of time being a linear convention. This multidirectional idea appeared – that we can connect with other dimensions where time is running differently. With this the idea of life and death takes a new form.
Image by Paolo Pozzi.
CC: You grew up surrounded by rugs. And for you, carpets were a world of protection. In what ways do they protect and shelter?
AK: They have to do with what’s familiar. Home. The perfect shelter. Rugs and wool carpets invite you to lie on the floor. It’s good to sometimes change the point of view, to see thing though new perspectives. They connect you to your child inside. I love that about rugs, you can cuddle into them. They have attributes such as absorption of impact of accidents. They are great for kids; it’s a soft surface from where to explore the world. If things fall, they tend less to brake. Rugs go into homes and witness people’s lives.
CC: You seem to treasure the spaces and landscapes of your childhood. You spent a lot of time alone in gardens, and this gave rise to your idea of immersion in the landscape?
AK: I have a childhood memory of solitude. I grew up in a garden with a house. I built imaginary homes in tree branches. I took walks after storms, and searched for fallen birds to nurse. It is a magical spot in my life, that garden. Exploring the shadows, the dark places, my dark places. Through my work I heal parts of my life, of myself, the landscape is the scenery in which I choose to do so. It’s a way of submerging into myself.
CC: How do magical realms stoke our imaginations?
AK: I think that as children we tend to build these safe places in our minds that make us feel special. Children have a clean point of view. As we grow up, if we are able to preserve a part of that, the child within us, we will always be able to see things from that special point of view.
CC: What do you most fear/what is the scariest thing you can think of?
AK: That something bad can happen to my son. That has become my biggest nightmare since he was born.
CC: You come from a Greek family that immigrated to Argentina after the Greco-Turkish War. Your grandmother brought a loom, and your whole family began weaving. You’ve said that when you started weaving genetic knowledge appeared, connecting you with your grandmother whom you’ve never met. What is it like to come from such a unified ancestral team?
AK: It feels like a different way of knowing my family. It is a silent and intimate knowledge. I never met my grandmother, all I had were ideas and some stories.
I sometimes feel I am guided by a force that lies inside, in a very deep place. It has to do with healing karma, with moving on. Carpet making is the way my family chose to do so, I guess. I feel I know things about my grandmother that have to do with how she felt, it’s empathic. I really don’t understand a lot, nor try to. But It makes sense, so I keep going on.
CC: Can you talk about your sense of humor? What cracks you up?
AK: I guess I am very straight forward, and even though I have a good sense of humor, I take things too literally and sometimes miss the joke. But my humor is acid I guess.
CC: What’s the last movie you saw? The last book you’ve read?
AK: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (I had never seen it!) I am reading Donde mejor canta un pajaro, Alejandro Jodorowsky.
CC: I read that you are interested in conservation and respect for the environment. You don’t have to look elsewhere for resources – you make do with what is around you?
AK: I use wool scraps from my family’s factory so I have no need to go outside and look. I have everything right there. No need for transport. It would be great if there were an artist/designer/creative working like this in every factory!
“Inside The Spartan, founded by my grandparents 70 years ago, I manage and produce within the Lab Design & Sustainability. Our productions come from existing materials, often discards and overproduction. We reuse and recycle. Our carpets are made by wool, a natural and renewable product that comes from sheep fed on pasture,” Kehayoglou explains.
CC: We’ve talked a lot about rugs, but has your creativity manifested itself in other projects? In other mediums? What will you be working on in the new year?
AK: I have still not explored the limits of this material. I am now working on new surfaces; my idea is to make the rug go onto new surfaces, objects. I am currently working on a collaboration with Jose Garcia Huidobro, an engineer artist, we are making a shoe that is a boat and that is covered in rug. I think that collaborations are great.
CC: What is the evil version of you like?
AK: I can get extremely bossy…
CC: And lastly, to steal one from the great James Lipton…if heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?