TEXTILES IN GEORGIA
Georgian textile artists live and work with an awareness of the millennia of textile tradition in their country. Spinning and weaving techniques have been known in Georgia since the Neolithic period.
There is evidence of advanced embroidery dating from the second century AD. Embroidery achieved its maturity in Medieval church art. Embroidered decoration found on the clothing worn in Georgia's mountainous regions is particularly noteworthy. It displays a rich iconography full of symbolism.
Design elements go back to the pre- Christian era. The Georgian "pardagi" kilims, for instance, stand out due to their unique patterning system. Nahadi, felt carpets from the mountain regions, are interesting because of their strictly structured compositions and their decorative solemnity. Other typical examples of the ancient local textile crafts are indigo-printed tablecloths decorated in romantic designs.
The Georgian Academy of Fine Arts, which includes a textile department, was founded nearly eighty years ago, and is one of the most important institutions for training whole generations of textile artists.
Contemporary tapestry is exemplified by Givi Kandareli's work created in the 1960s. After studying tapestry at Antonin Kybal's studio in Prague and later with Rudolf Heimrats in Riga. he passed on the technique to young Georgian artists. This imported technique subsequently developed independently in Georgia. The Sixties saw the creation of large-format tapestries suitable for decorating public architectural spaces. Like mural painting, tapestry was promoted by official art institutions. The choice of depletion's favored mostly ethnographic attributes while figural pieces tended to express national themes. Despite a wave of folklore and naturalistic interpretations, some of the tapestries woven at that time are interesting from an artistic point of view.
Georgian art did not lose its sense of self-preservation in the Seventies despite the "Socialist Realism" that had been publicly imposed. In the late Seventies and Eighties tapestry developed from its functional-monumental applications to a narrative art form. Artists attempted to use it for expressing their own individuality. employing it as a kind of easel painting. This anesthetization of weaving, with particular attention given to craftsmanship. produced a new art. Pieces were now executed by the designers themselves. This gave them greater autonomy and enabled new insights into the connection of material and technique. However, flat-woven tapestries remained the preferred form. Tapestries woven by the young generation in the Eighties and Nineties show a tendency towards abstract representation. Compositions usually display universal meanings. Technically the fabrics are highly refined and restricted to half-shades, with shapes that seem to merge into one another. In their pictorial worlds, some artists seek to trace the traditional symbols of Georgian pardagis. Silk dyeing and batik have been highly popular since the Seventies. The tendency towards the pictorial, the great scope for freedom and the spontaneity afforded by batik were transferred to the creation of tapestries. Professional felt artists have rediscovered the ancient felting technique. They are now endeavoring to unlock wider visual realities through that medium, including illusionistic spatial representations and skin-like textures. Other felt artists employ echoes of a strictly decorative character. i.e. the flat, traditional utthudis. and are extending their power of expression by a more general interpretation.
In the Nineties several artists began using materials that are not specific to textiles, and experimenting with three- dimensional textiles.
Fashion designers create interesting conceptual avant-garde clothing, integrating patterns found in traditional Georgian weaving into their designs.
Last year seven exhibitions of textile art and one fashion competition were held in Tbilisi. Georgia is currently living through hard times, but art develops further in these.
Thanks to the European Textile Network and the information provided by Textile Forum magazine. Georgian textile artists are included in international events. This is very important to our art which traditionally is a European one, but in reality is not well enough known.
"ETN Textilforum" European Textile Network Journal. 1/96 March,
about the author