Faig Ahmed: 50 shades or rugs, story of a metamorphosis

50 shades or rugs: story of a metamorphosis

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Faig Ahmed is constantly blurring our perceptions and playing with our senses,
his carpets are pushing the boundaries of craft, leaving their status of 2D objects to become floating items defying space and dimension.

The stories imprint in the rugs for millennium are being rewritten in a hyper-contemporary style, instilling some urban poetry in the folkloric heritage, like the Graffiti series displaying some street art typographies printed on the carpets.

In his Gautama work (flooding series), the rug threads looks like they are dripping on the floor, in Fuel his hand-woven carpet designs appear as though the black pigments are melting into a wavy pattern of oil on water.
With Equation exhibition, this time art, science and metaphysics are linked together in spectacular three-dimensional installation. Patterns are distorted, broken up, demolished. The same in Recycle, where he cut a carpet sold to him by an old woman, giving it a new life and shape.

Different artworks that all required a specific production process, from sketches making on the com- puter, to their transfer on a special engineering paper dot by dot, and the choice of a sophisticated methods of carpet weaving to print the design. All threads are woolen or silken and are dyed with natural colors and the weaving system remains the same as it was 300 years ago, thus preserving and reinterpreting the tradition at the same time.

In order to realize his ambition, Faig had to convince and meet the weavers who saw his work as disrespectful of the regional custom “The hardest part was communicating with the weavers. They are like the keepers of the weaving tradition. For about a year I just sat beside them and learned. Initially, they called me a crazy man and wouldn’t accept my idea. Then I explained that centuries ago people created what we now think of as our classic carpet designs through the same kind of innovations. “

If Ahmed’s first encounter with carpets seemed troubled at first, it turned out to be a deep rela- tionship over time. Throughout his career, the artist succeeded to demonstrate his commitment and instill his own contemporary poetry in one of the most immutable and ancient mediums of the world.

A journey through religion and mysticism

Artist, scientist, thinker but also engineer at the same time, Faig is what we call a “chameleon”. His art is never far from the depths of esotericism and metaphysical questionings. From a very young age, he developed a rich inner world using his practice to keep the balance between his myste- rious side and all the realities he was traveling. When he was only 10, he found a book of yoga that opened an all new world to him: leading him to later discover Osho meditation, Hindu philosophies and even to learn Sanskrit. A culture that had a big influence on him as he describes“Throughout my life, India has had a great impact on me. I was dreaming about it even as a child. I dreamed of tra- velling to India and finding a guru. So when I eventually travelled there, I thought I’d be prepared, but I was not. India is a place that influences all of your senses at the same time. I mean, if something is dirty, it’s really dirty. If the food is good, then it’s absolutely divine. This happens with everything.” From this spirituality inherited from his childhood, his works of art are today inspired, like a mirror reflecting his inner mysticism and deeply connected to world religions, ancient scriptures, calligraphy and patterns.

By example in Points of perception, his solo major European show in The Contemporary Museum of Roma, he used Sufism aesthetics in a project consisting of monumental installations, individual works and videos creating a kind of gigantic wave with the floor fabric of a mosque that defies the laws of physics and overwhelms the viewer.

An artistic initiatory journey where the path replaces the destination, embracing Faig’s own poetics “The reality of my art is still very much in the process of research and discovery. I’m an explorer, so I’m much more interested in what I unearth through my research than the result of it. My artworks are just some reports reflecting various periods of my investigations.”

Some researches that are always leading to some unexpected transformations, precisely or- chestrated in respect of the craft making tradition.

A contemporary work deeply rooted in the past

Faig Ahmed graduated from the sculpture department of the Azerbaijan State Academy of Fine Arts in 2004, a background that probably sow the seeds of what would become his next obses- sion: turning the visual language of carpets into sculptural and original compositions. A taste for transforming ordinary objects into majestic ones, giving them back their lost magic, as he explains himself “Sometimes an ordinary spoon, happens to be an ancient object with a deep concept that has travelled along the history of humanity. These objects are magical and they already exist in out subconsciousness.”

Yet a contemporary artist, Faig Ahmed is also a nostalgic soul who always nurtured a strong bond with the past that he considers as “the most stable conception of our lives”. Thus he loves to expe- riment popular materials such as the rug weavings in Azerbaijan or Indian embroidery, reshaping them in innovative ways that break away from conventions usually associated with traditional art. He remembers “As any other Azeri family we had carpets everywhere. I had a carpet in my room, too. I was always playing with the patterns of the carpet imagining there were roads, trees, dragons etc. One day when my parents left for countryside, I decided to change the places of the patterns and cut the carpet into pieces. Of course I never managed to gather the pieces together.” Throughout a deep examination of his roots, Faig manages to design artworks that are both in- timate and inscribed in the present times, playing with cultural symbols that he reinvents in new manners. A constant dialogue with the past which is at the heart of his practice, bringing together modernity and homage to his local folklore.


At only 36 years old, Faig Ahmed is among the most important conceptual artist in the world. Born in Azer- baijan, he converts the traditional decorative craft of his native region into contemporary works of art. By revisiting ancient techniques, he creates a new artis- tic language exploring the frontiers between mysti- cism, religions and local customs. An invitation for the viewers to deconstruct tradition in a faithful tribute to it.

Words/Lou Mamalet




Born in 1982, Faig Ahmed represented Azerbaijan at the na- tion’s inaugural pavilion at the famous Venice Biennale in 2007 and participated in the “Love Me, Love Me Not” exhibition for the 2013 event. Since then, the artist has exhibited his works worldwide including group and solo exhibitions in big cities as New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, Mumbai, Rome, Syd- ney and Dubai.

At only 31, he was nominated for the Jameel Prize 3 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. His works are in public collections in the United States, including Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Palm Springs Museum of Art, RISD Museum; Bargoin Museum, France; The National Gallery of Victoria, Australia; as well as private collections such as the West Collection, Philadelphia; the collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody, New York City; Galila Barzilaï-Hollander’s collection, Brussels; and the private collection of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan bin Khalifa al-Nahyan, United Arab Emirates, among others.