Middle Eastern art has always been associated with heavily designed surfaces. Its use of highly stylized calligraphy, its text taken from the Quran were used for purposes of decoration; the covering of surfaces with repetitive designs; and the use of the medallion as the visual center point in the rugs’ field, all served as extravagant, impressive displays of artistic skills and virtuosity. At times visual puzzles and mazes, at other times dazzling complex geometric and curvilinear ornmentatation, we encounter complex decoration covering the facades of buildings, their interior architecture, pottery, weapons, rugs, textiles and books.
However this Kurdish rug shown below explores an entirely different sense of what is regarded as beautiful and worthy of thought and wonder. As you can see this piece offers the viewer three empty panels or what I like to call “windows” or portals. These windows are without design or ornamentation. Their only suggestion of design is the faint whisper and subtle movement of the various striations of its hand spun camel hair wool. The panels remain empty, still and silent. This approach to design and content is unique. In all my years of seeing rugs, I rarely see rugs of this design type.
So what is going on here? Why is there no ornamentation or design decorating these panels? Some of us may distrust the open field and suspect the weaver simply gave up. Where is her skill and investment of time? I think they have missed the point. The panel’s emptiness is the design, its silence is its beauty, and its openness is its grace and elegance. There is no escape from this rug’s quiet vibrating stillness. We look into a void the weaver has created and we see nothing and we see everything, we encounter both simplness and complexity. The panels serve as our window into the vast unknowable universe. It humbles us as we are spectators as well as living participates in this eternal mystery. This rug was not created by accident. Rather by a weaver with absolute love, conviction, and genius.
This is an aesthetic and idea that we all have seen used by our 20th century abstract expressionist painters. As the solitary woman weaving her rug in the most primitive conditions struggled to express the ineffable, so did our 20th century artists struggle with this ultimate question? As humans beings living on this planet we remain continuely uncertain and bewildered as to our place in the unknowable. Jesus spoke “I am the door”. Our unknown weaver invites those of us who have the faith to enter her holy place.