2016

    • Date
      2016.06.18 - 2016.09.11
    • Artist
      Aniwar Mamat
    • Curator
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  • Images

Felt

Aniwar’s work is unique within China’s contemporary art, first for his distinctive artistic language, which approaches abstraction. Second, because this artist’s approach draws deeply on his cultural roots, as part of the rich, colourful traditions of aesthetic sensibilities found in Xinjiang and its textile heritage. Aniwar makes paintings, drawings, photo and film works which reflect emotional currents within life. Although the artist is always careful to say that it begins from nature, emotion, light rather than purely non-representational concepts. There is, he suggests, an emotional timbre to even the most rigorous of intellectual practices in art. As he previously demonstrated with a series of monochromatic pencil line drawings that he titles “Diary” - each one carried out within the space of a day and where the length and intensity of the line reflects the artist’s mood of the day. Over time, he reduced readable forms, such as figures, flowers and elements of nature, to pure colour and a form of geometric line that is intended to create a spatial sensation across the surface of a painting or textile work such as those on display in “Felt”.
 
The phrase “emotional timbre” suggests a visual effect that is in contrast to the often rather minimalist elements that Aniwar uses in his painting to give them visual form. These forms are frequently flat, linear blocks of colour, assembled together as a series of simple bands of pure pigment laid on the surface of a painting to evoke, in sensual fashion, a landscape, certain weather conditions, and architectural and natural spaces.
 
In his recent series of textile works, begun in 2014, Aniwar returned to his native culture to bring craft traditions into the purview of his art. The works are formed using traditional carpet-making techniques, an age-old method of hand rolling and compressing pure wool to achieve a thick, soft textured felt. The felt is made from pressed sheep or goat’s wool. It takes the wool from approximately five sheep to make a single traditional Shyrdak rug. The process is slow and labour intensive. The method remains traditional - the wool is washed and dried, then whipped with long willow sticks flat on the ground. It can now be dyed before the beaten fibres are spread out in even layers on a mat woven from “chiy” reeds which grow on the steppes. It is then ready to be rolled up in the reed mat. Traditionally, the roll would then be tied with ropes to allow the workers to step repeatedly on the roll to compress the wool. The process is repeated until the felt attains the desired density. The tightly compacted felt is now also waterproof.
 
Traditionally, too, this type of Shyrdak contained a pattern made from distinctive contrasts in colour, such as red and green, yellow and black, brown and white. Two contrasting layers of felt would be laid on top of one another. The pattern would be marked on the top layer in chalk, and then painstakingly cut out like a stencil. The felt that is cut from the top layer would be used to create a second rug with a mirror image of the first. This is in part the process that Aniwar invokes, evolving the technique to create a series of unique pieces that are individually assembled from carefully selected stripes of pre-dyed felt.
 
Aniwar brings to this tradition a contemporary language which is the geometric and spatial arrangements of bands of colour. To achieve this, Aniwar worked alongside the craftsmen to determine the range of natural-dye pigments to be used, and the proportions of the strips of felt to be produced and dyed. These were then composed in a painterly pattern by laying the coloured bands across the surface of a larger sheet of felt. The whole was then rolled using a bamboo mat – as if making a giant sushi roll – until the material was compressed together and the final form of the paintings was achieved. Aniwar’s felt works are remarkable examples of contemporary textile art unlike the traditional patterns and pictorial motifs used across Central Asia. A link remains however in the sublimation of descriptive motifs, meaning readable pictorial figures, into an abstraction form. This underscores Aniwar’s evolution as an artist over time in which such readable figurations as human forms, flowers, elements of nature, were reduced to pure colour and a form of geometric line that is intended to create a spatial sensation on and embedded within the flat surface of a painting or textile work such as those on display in “Felt”.



About the Artist

Aniwar Mamat was born in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in 1962. In 1984, he moved to Beijing to gain a degree in Oil Painting at the National Minorities University in 1988. He continues to live and work in Beijing.



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