Taher Asad-Bakhtiari | THE POND HOUSE
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THE POND HOUSE
THE POND HOUSE

 

CARWAN GALLERY
BEIRUT, LEBANON

 

“… WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN, THIS ROOM WAS OUR FAVORITE TO PLAY IN… IT HAD A MAGICAL FEEL TO IT, IT WAS DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER ROOM IN THE HOUSE…”

 

THE POND HOUSE IS AN INDOOR ATRIUM WITH FOUNTAIN CENTRAL TO TRADITIONAL IRANIAN ARCHITECTURE, WHICH SERVES AS A COOLING CHAMBER DURING THE HOT SUMMER MONTHS. IT IS A SPACE RINGING OF FLOWING WATER WHERE GUESTS ARE INVITED TO LOUNGE IN A CONTEMPLATIVE ATMOSPHERE. ASAD-BAKHTIARI WAS INSPIRED BY THE POND HOUSE OF HIS OLD FAMILY RESIDENCE IN TEHRAN TO CREATE A UNIQUE COLLECTION OF MODERN-DAY TRIBAL TAPESTRIES.

 

“…OUR POND HOUSE WAS IN THE BASEMENT, FRAMED BY WALLS IN CLASSICAL ISLAMIC ARCS… I THINK MY GRANDPARENTS WANTED TO CREATE A TRADITIONAL SPACE WITH A TWIST OF MODERN… AT THAT TIME, THE FLOOR WAS COVERED WITH KILIMS, GABBEHS AND CUSHIONS FOR PEOPLE TO LOUNGE AND PLAY INSTRUMENTS, SMOKE SHISHA AND RELAX…”

 

ASAD-BAKHTIARI’S TRIBAL WEAVES REINVENT THE KILIM AND THE GABBEH. WOVEN BY SEMI-NOMADIC TRIBAL WOMEN USING ENTIRELY NATURALLY-DYED, HANDSPUN WOOL, EACH PIECE CAN REQUIRE UP TO FOUR MONTHS TO CREATE, DEPENDING ON SIZE. UNLIKE THE TRADITIONAL IRANIAN CARPET, IRANIAN TRIBAL WEAVES DISPLAY QUITE SIMPLE PATTERNS, BECAUSE TRIBAL PEOPLE WEAVE WHAT THEY SEE: THE SKY, THE MOUNTAINS, THE EARTH, THE ANIMALS. OFTEN-TIMES, THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENTS OF EARTH, SKY, SUN, MOUNTAIN ARE EXPRESSED AS SINGLE BLOCKS OF COLOR, GIVING LIFE TO A RAW, CONDENSED AND VERY IMPACTFUL CONCEPTUAL VISION OF THE NATURAL WORLD.

 

“… BACK THEN, MY GRANDPARENTS HAD COLORED THE WALLS IN TURQUOISE BLUE, THE INNER ARCS IN GOLD AND THE TILE-HOLDING ALCOVES IN RED… YEARS LATER, MY GRANDMOTHER MOVED TO AN APARTMENT… THE HOME WAS RENTED OUT AND THE POND HOUSE PAINTED ENTIRELY IN WHITE…”

 

INSPIRED BY THE POWER OF THIS PURITAN PHILOSOPHY, ASAD-BAKHTIARI IMAGINES A PROCESS TO FURTHER STRIP THE TRIBAL WEAVE TO ITS BARE ELEMENTS, STARTING WITH THE WEAVING PROCESS ITSELF. A SET OF VERTICAL THREADS (THE WARP) FORM THE BACKBONE ON WHICH ALL WEAVES ARE WOVEN; KILIMS ARE PRODUCED BY INTERWEAVING HORIZONTAL THREADS, WHILE GABBEHS ARE PRODUCED BY TYING PIECES OF WOOL AROUND THE WARP AND CUTTING THEIR LOOSE ENDS. ASAD- BAKHTIARI’S INNOVATION COMES FROM EXPOSING PARTS OF THE WARP, REVEALING THE SKELETON OF THE CARPET AND BRINGING IT INTO THE OVERALL DESIGN.

 

ON THE KILIMS, THESE LARGE SECTIONS OF EXPOSED WOOL THREADS – WHETHER NATURAL BEIGE OR NATURALLY COLORED – CREATE A LONG LINEAR FEEL AND A NEW SENSE OF LIGHTNESS. ON THE GABBEHS, THE DELICACY OF THE WARP STANDS IN SHARP CONTRAST WITH THE DENSE AND FLUFFY KNOTS OF THE GABBEH WEAVE. ASAD-BAKHTIARI GOES ON TO CREATE AN INDIVIDUAL LACE-LIKE WEAVE ON CERTAIN EXPOSED SECTIONS OF THE WARP – RESULTING IN PIECES THAT ARE CLOSE TO PATCHWORK.

 

FULL IN PARTS, EMPTY IN OTHERS, SEE-THROUGH IN PLACES AND BREATHING AIR, THESE RE-IMAGINED TRIBAL TAPESTRIES IMPRESS AS MUCH AS THEY SURPRISE. IN PROFESSIONAL CIRCLES, ASAD-BAKHTIARI’S BREAK WITH HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF WEAVING NORM WAS MET WITH SCEPTICISM, BUT THIS IS PART AND PARCEL OF HIS PRACTICE AND A REALITY HE EMBRACES. “CHANGE CREATES RESISTANCE, AND RESISTANCE IN TURN CATALYSES CHANGE”, HE SAYS.

 

RESISTANCE IS A CONCEPT FAMILIAR TO ASAD-BAKHTIARI; IN FACT, MOST OF HIS ART IS AN EXERCISE IN RESISTANCE – THE BREAKING OR THE MAKING OF IT. A BREAK WITH TRADITION IS WHAT ALLOWED HIM TO ESTABLISH A NEW BLUEPRINT FOR WEAVING. IN HIS SECOND INNOVATION, ASAD-BAKHTIARI INTRODUCES NEW WEAVING MATERIALS. THE RESULT IS A COLLECTION OF TAPESTRIES THAT BLEND POLYURETHANE WITH EXPOSED WARP, KILIM WEAVE AND LACE WEAVE, ALL IN VARIOUS COMBINATIONS. THESE RE-INVENTED PIECES TAKE ON NEW FUNCTIONS AS WALL PARTITIONS, WALL COVERINGS, FURNITURE SPREADS, CHALLENGING IN THEIR SWEEP THE ORTHODOX NOTION THAT “KILIMS AND GABBEHS ARE FOR THE FLOOR.”

 

EVERY REINVENTION IS AN EXERCISE IN PROTECTION. FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS, IRANIAN TRIBES HAVE PRODUCED ALL SIZES OF KILIMS AND GABBEHS, MOSTLY AS FUNCTIONAL FLOOR COVERINGS, SADDLE BLANKETS, STORAGE BAGS AND PRAYER RUGS. WITH TIME, THE WEAVING COMMUNITY WORKING WITH ASAD-BAKHTIARI HAVE COME TO UNDERSTAND THAT IF TRIBAL WEAVES ARE TO SURVIVE IN A MARKET DOMINATED BY MACHINE-MADE CARPETS, THEY MUST OFFER A NOVEL AND VIABLE CONCEPT OF FORM AND FUNCTION. THIS, ASAD-BAKHTIARI BRILLIANTLY ACHIEVES THROUGH MARRYING THE CRAFTS AND AESTHETICS OF TODAY AND YESTERDAY.

 

“… WHEN I WAS A CHILD, THE ALCOVES OF THE POND HOUSE WERE COVERED IN TILE ART AND YOU COULD SEE THE ARCHES AND THE LANTERNS AND THE FOUNTAIN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM… SINCE CHILDHOOD, THAT ROOM HAS STAYED WITH ME… AS AN ADULT, I ALWAYS THOUGHT OF INTEGRATING IT IN MY WORK… ONE DAY, I WALKED DOWN THERE… THE HUMIDITY HAD CAUSED THE PAINT TO PEEL OFF  THE WALLS, EXPOSING PATCHES OF THE OLD BLUE PAINT… I STARTED SCRAPING OFF THE WHITE FLAKES AND I FELL IN LOVE WITH WHAT WAS UNDERNEATH… THE GABBEHS OF THE POND HOUSE ARE A RENDERING OF THIS MAGIC PLACE.”
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