The world art experience of the last decades attests to the extraordinary scope of inquiry and experimentation in tapestry, one of the leading contemporary decorative art genres – a development contributed to by an unprecedented expansion of its textural and coloration options. In Azerbaijan this is a relatively new art form: interest in it started showing only in the 1960s, and that was the time when tapestry happened to be in the forefront of the Azerbaijani decorative art. To the art scene came professional tapestry artists who acquired the knowledge and skills in other countries. Their art reflected all the innovations the tapestry experienced globally, while maintaining the traditions of Azerbaijan. Textile manufacturers were also searching for new forms, textures, materials and dimensions.
A master profoundly spiritual and capable of sensing and understanding the world’s beauty never ceases to search for a perfect form and composition. Among such masters is decorative artist Tamilla Abdullaeva whose versatile skill began to evolve in the 1980s. Apart from tapestries and carpets she creates numerous jewellery design sketches, though giving preference to tapestry where, according to the artist, one can easily express one’s feelings and sentiments. Her tapestry style is characterized by quiet and balanced compositions, planar interpretation of elements, as well as laconic yet saturated colour range with dominating warm shades devoid of loud contrasts.
Abdullaeva began her career in art while a student at the Tbilisi Vocational Art School named after M. Toidze, graduating in 1975 as tapestry artist. During her studies Abdullaeva worked with renowned Georgian artists such as T. Gabidzashvili, G. Kandareli, A. Toidze, and N. Medzmirashvili, implementing their sketch designs in material. One recalls the words of artist Jacques Lurçat, which can also be true for Tamilla Abdullaeva: “An artist who implements sketches of another artist in material is considered a co-author”.
Abdullaeva applied the knowledge gained at the Institute working as an artist at the Tbilisi Arts and Crafts Association called “Solani”, where she created small-size souvenir tapestries.
In 1978, Abdullaeva spent some time working as design artist at the Azerbaijan State Museum of Applied Arts and Carpet. In 1979-1984 she studied at the arts and crafts department of the Azerbaijan State Institute of Arts named after M. A. Aliev, mastering as carpet design artist, with Latif Kerimov as her academic mentor. The first complete ornamental composition she created was her graduation work called Islimi-bendlik.
Abdullaeva creates her tapestries in different techniques: boucle, relief. They are small in size, featuring distinct completeness of compositions and expressive lines. Her works reflect the beauty of the surrounding nature. Continuous improvisation on a conceived theme in the process of a hard and laborious work prompts Abdullaeva to create more and more new interesting pieces. Soulful lyricism combined with keen artistic sensitivity shows in every tapestry she makes. Before she starts working on a piece she pictures it in her imagination. There is no ready-made sketch: only the idea and the artist’s improvisational intuition.
The works of the artist can be grouped by themes: butterflies, trees, floral compositions, and abstract pieces.
In the butterfly series the theme is exposed in three different aspects. For instance, in one piece the woven butterfly is shown amidst the thicket of branches and leaves. Its bright-red wing catches the eye. The spotty insect is motionless and static among the green leaves. Another composition is performed in quiet colours with a dominant white. Black outline highlights the design against the background of different shades of green, lending certain dynamics to the piece.
In another tapestry a butterfly is shown in flight. Its wings seem to be fluttering, setting everything in motion. Light and airy composition wrought in ordinary yarn testifies to the high professionalism of the author. Many colours ranging from ink-blue turning into light-blue, green and turquoise, shades of pale-yellow and brown, and occasional use of bright red that produces a peculiar colour effect, create a festive sensation. Colour proportions in the piece by Abdullaeva are so expressive that they become meaningful part of the content.
Another series is about trees and flowers. In “The Legend of Nature” triptych the tree is shown in three hypostases – germination, growth and maturity, allegorically comparing it to a woman: naughty and playful in the first piece; graceful and delicate in the second; mature and wise in the third.
Interesting are the works dedicated to wildflowers. One of them shows bright-yellow sunflowers woven on a red background. Flowers with large petals on long stems reaching upward take the entire focus. The combination of bright-red and yellow with deep-green creates a unique colour image that radiates joy. The theme continues in another tapestry featuring a flower field. In the foreground one can see green leaves, twisting, stretching up; among them tulips, cornflowers and daisies – the larger ones in the foreground, and those hardly noticeable in the back. Of particular interest is the colour scheme of the composition. Nature’s details noticed by the artist are transferred to tapestry, breathing life, light and air into its confined dimension.
In the art of Abdullaeva there are some abstract pieces showing a distinct play of colour and shapes. These works feature a very interesting compositional and colour solution. In her abstract pieces, in a free, improvisational manner, the artist shows the play of colour spots and creates a light, airy environment where all the elements look naturally.
The same composition mirrored in each of the planes is present in four mini-tapestries. These are based on half-ovals connected by an arc-like element. The tapestries differ only in colour scheme. Each of them features three colours. Black, light-blue and turquoise in the first one; black, red and gray in the second; beige, ochre and orange in the third; green, willow-green and light-brown in the fourth. Carefully chosen colour palette makes these tapestries extraordinary; besides, the artist outlined all the elements with cord braids that lent dynamics to the compositions.
Creative signature of Tamilla Abdullaeva is characterized by her ability to cleverly choose the color scheme, use pure colours with almost no halftones as the old masters did, and minimize the number of shades. The artist achieves great decorativeness through expressive lines and colour, without exaggerated attention to detail, yet without losing it in the whole arrangement. In her art the master turns to the style of the traditional planar tapestry and the dense weaving technique.
A special mention should be given to the only portrait tapestry dedicated to the artist Latif Kerimov, the founder of the carpet studies in Azerbaijan. Perhaps this is the first portrait in the art of tapestry at large. Abdullaeva sourced her inspiration from the personality of the prominent educator who revealed many secrets of carpet weaving to his student, and she achieved great similarity between the portrait and the original: one can see his favourite smoking pipe and a carpet vest – accessories inseparable from Kerimov’s appearance.
In the last fifteen years the artist engaged in teaching. She currently lectures at the Azerbaijan State University of Culture and Art, sharing her rich experience and knowledge with the younger generation of artists. Abdullaeva constantly seeks to expand her notion of art. Hopefully, the audiences will be able to see some new wonderful designs created by Tamilla Abdullaeva.