We don’t often debate our differences in interpretation and methods of analysis, but here’s a start. Let’s bring forward Max and Nigel’s disagreements in their comments on the previous post, and see what others think?
max allen said: October 23rd, 2007 at 2:07 pmeWell, Nigel, that’s certainly a leap. Perhaps you might have headed your entry “Progressive Imagination.” Why is your explanation any better than mine, which might go like this: The two rugs have a common ancestor and were made about the same time, one by a more skilled weaver with better materials at hand. One does not “evolve” from the other. They are coeval. I can give you a hundred examples (and you have some yourself) of the horizontal city rugs, some of which are really nice and well drawn and detailed, and some are really crude and awful. Would you suggest that the nice ones are necessarily earlier?
Nigel Lendon Says: October 23rd, 2007 at 3:54 pmeWell, Max. Until we find a more ragged, more abstracted (pace Harold Osborne) carpet from the same ancestor with a proven earlier date than a finer, more detailed example, my perceptions still favour some kind of evolutionary model whereby copies (whether literally pixel-by-pixel reproductions, or by looking and making it up as the image is built, or made from memory) tend to produce less detailed representations which tend towards abstracted designs. So yes, I suggest that the nice ones are probably closer in time to the (nicer) ancestor, but yes, it’s not a neat time-line, more a tangled brachiate. That said, I prefer the “progressive abstraction” model to your more random skills and opportunities account of coeval production. Sure, it could even go backwards in the age of colour photocopiers and mass reproduction of pattern cartoons, but is that likely? Everything I saw which looked like contemporary reproductions of earlier (ie. already known in the outside world) patterns, were simpler, less innovative in the micro-structure of their imagery and pattern, and therefore more “abstract”. Which is not to say that this resultant abstraction follows any of the models and motivations we would associate with western artistic practices in the 20th C. which is what makes it an interesting and provocative concept. So, until we find the contradicting evidence, PA has more going for it than coeval.
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Was wondering about this whole
progressive abstraction and was wondering where the rule of thumb
came from that a later would be more abstract? I would have thought
that it could go either way. What is to stop a simple design
inspiring someone to further embellish who perhaps is a better crafts
person? or has access to higher grade materials? or who just likes
more frills? Things don’t always get simplified in the run of visual
imagery surely? After all what would have come after rothko and
mondrian and Malevich and that dude in melbourne who painted an
orange painting. Surely we would still be doing that or have painters
regressed. Would the rules of making carpets be any different, would
personal taste of the artist not come into it, even how much
influence the artisan would have from other area’s and the types of
designs from those area’s.
They are groovy though- the carpets – I guess seeing with western
eyes we see them as exotic yet the imagery is not the traditional
things that we would associate with that exotic and throws us back
not enabling us to run from the knowledge of war going’s on that we
have been apart of even if mainly at a safe distance.
Any how couldn’t help but ask why it can only move in one direction
and I’m procrastinating and being a little facetious (?).
It’s a valid point, but the evidence seems to be running the other way. And as I point out on other commentary on the site, it’s not driven by anything like the Western tradition.
You could Google a (deceased) art historian called Harold Osborne who wrote a couple of interesting essays (among many other things) which have been reprinted on the web titled “Ways of Abstraction” and “Non-iconic Abstraction” which pretty well sum up the pre-70s pre-pomo western canon, taking into account the early 20th C sense of progressive abstraction, which had a tiny run in Western Art History, although it has to be remembered a huge run in western Art Education…
But with the carpets, manual reproduction tends to start rich and end poor, in every sense. Driven by necessity, but also a different sense of visual literacy. The makers are clearly more comfortable with reproducing symmetries and patterns, and often don’t see asymmetrical icons, emblems or texts, which can easily be made mirror-reversed – partly because it’s easier to copy from the back of a rug than the front, and partly because figuration is the exception to the rule. But also the tradition is one of images, patterns and icons being subjected to micro-innovation, and little changes tend to become incremental. This a hand grenade can become a boteh, or a map can become a gul. Etc. etc. But once a gul, there’s no going back, because there’s no visual evidence pointing the other way!