Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pattern upon pattern upon pattern

I had the good fortune recently to visit Istanbul and other ports on the Adriatic.  I am still processing everything I saw (literally--I took hundreds of photos), but I wanted to share with you some of what made a huge impression on me.  We visited Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, the dwelling place of the Ottoman sultans from the 15th to the 19th centuries.  I knew nothing about Topkapi before, and I was blown away by the rich profusion of pattern in the ceramic tiles that cover the walls and ceilings throughout the palace.  These doorways give a hint of what's to come.

Inside, here is some of what we saw:

Do you detect in the focus of these photos the textile artist's obsession with pattern?  I have found it fun to randomly select one of my photographs and count the number of patterns in it.  Once I counted 18 patterns in close proximity. 

My snapshots do not do justice to the richness of the colors and the fine workmanship of these 6" ceramic tiles, all carefully fitted together to create these huge arab-esque designs (now I know were that word comes from!).  The stylized forms and lines are rooted in nature but do not depict it realistically.  For me the rich profusion of line and shape and the juxtaposition of scales and colors have an energy that bursts the bounds of the strict symmetry of the patterns.  To my eye this riot of rhythmic repetition conveys a real delight in creating and even, I think, a delight in the Creation, an impulse to praise the richness and beauty of the world.  (No doubt, there was also the impulse to display the richness and power of the Sultan himself.)

It will be interesting to see if and how exposure to this way of making pattern and natural imagery may affect my own work.  I had thought my next tapestry would be rather minimal, simplified and quiet in composition; now I just want to layer pattern upon pattern.  I have ordered several books from the library to learn more about Iznik tiles (Iznik is the Turkish city where these tiles were made) and Islamic design in general.  Stay tuned. . . .

1 comment:

  1. I recognize your pictures from Istanbul. Islamic patterns are so interesting since they are so lush despite the fact there are more rigid rules around what and how things can be depicted. I especially relate to the colors!!! I interpreted the designs I saw into a felted piece that I made while I was in Istanbul with a renowned felter who lives in the city. I'll bring it to our meeting tomorrow.