One-of-Kind Wool Rug Artworks by Alexandra Kehayoglou Mimic Rolling Pastures and Mossy Textures
Using scraps leftover thread from her family’s carpet factory in Buenos Aires, artist Alexandra Kehayoglou embarks on a laborious hand-tufting process to fabricate wool carpets and rugs that mimic natural textures like moss, water, trees, and pastures. The carpets balance form and function and can powerfully transform an entire room into a lush meadow dotted with pools of water and tufts of grass. Many of her works even function as part tapestry and flow from walls to floor, or work as covers for chairs or stools.
Last September, during Paris Fashion Week, the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten sent a parade of wisplike models in flouncy silk and chiffon down a runway that resembled a mossy forest path. Nearly twice the length of a tennis court, it was actually a carpet created by Alexandra Kehayoglou, a 33-year-old Argentine artist who spent 16 days stitching it together, then shipped it in pieces to Paris and reassembled it right before the show.
Kehayoglou started making these landscapes — some of them pure white, others depicting trippy Patagonian glaciers and fields — shortly after finishing art school in 2008. Her medium is closely connected to her family history. Kehayoglou’s Greek grandparents began making Ottoman-style rugs in Isparta, in present-day Turkey. After war broke out, the family fled to Argentina, arriving in the 1920s with their loom and little else. Today the family owns El Espartano, one of South America’s largest carpet companies. “I love the fact that her art is based on a craft that has been in her family for four generations,” says Van Noten. “I believe that this informs the clear truth of her work that some might confuse for naïveté.”
In her workshop, an industrial space attached to the El Espartano factory, Kehayoglou hoists up her rugs perpendicular to the ground on a large scaffold, and wears headphones that block out the noise made by her hand-tufting machine. The textured, multicolored terrains come together in roughly two months, but she also creates carpets that look more like paintings — depicting a beach in Costa Rica, or a deer in the tall grass at night. These take several months to execute. She recently collaborated on an installation in Berlin with the artist Olafur Eliasson, but also exhibits her own room-size works, such as “Shelter for a Memory,” which had a moonlit jungle covering the walls. On the ground, the piece sprouted tufts of grass. A real swing was suspended from the ceiling. “It’s hard for people to understand that a rug can be art,” she says. “But maybe that’s changing.”
Author: Christopher Jobson, nytimes/STEPHEN HEYMAN