Cultural Integration Through Carpets
By Chiara Barbagallo
Iran, Italy, and Japan are geographically very far one from another; while in artworks by Mahmoud Saleh Mohammadi (Iran 1979) they coexist and they connect enriching each other.
In particular, in Persian Marriage series, the artist celebrated the union between a Persian carpet and a door, a chair, or a wooden blind coming from Italy.
Being inspired by Japanese technique kintsugi – which repairs broken potteries joining pieces with liquid gold or silver – Mohammadi linked the elements of his series using gold leaves. In this way he melted cultures very different between each other.
Moreover, in those artworks, the artist wanted to play on linguistic differences he discovered since, about ten years ago, he moved to Milan for studying: in Persian, in contrast to Italian, objects’ names have a neutral genre and the verb to marry is only used to mean the union between two people and not metaphorically. Therefore, Mohammadi ‘matched in a marriage’ a carpet (of a male genre in Italian) with objects referred in Italian with a female genre.
The Iranian artist often uses Persian carpets in his artworks because they are a symbol of his native culture. But he seldom lays them down on the ground and, aside from juxtaposing them to other furniture’s elements, he hangs them on the walls as paintings, he makes them the main part of his installations, and he shapes them in a sculptural way.
In Persian Calligraphy series, Mohammadi uses carpets as canvases drawing on them calligraphic lettering obtained by the application of golden leaf layers. Writing on such surfaces, which aren’t blank but have their own ornamental component and a specific cultural background, creates a plus value to carpets enriching past with present.
In Farsh-Persian Calligrafi B #03 the artist, re-evoking siyah mashq, repeats letter B in Persian calligraphic lettering to lose its meaning through the repetition and to transform it in a precious decoration.
Carpets with golden leaf drawings were also in the installation Touch with Eyes created for a runaway show of the fashion designer Antonio Marras. This artwork’s title assumes that surfaces can be ‘touched’ through sight; it’s not just a simple synaesthesia because it’s important for the artist to create immersive experiences in which all senses are, as he says, “activated“.
This concept of total involving can also be found in his project Take a Walk on my Culture represented by the symbolic picture of two people’s feet on a Persian carpet: walking on this emblematic object with a millennial history, and so feeling it with touch, can make people know a culture absorbing all its beauties and peculiarities.
Mahmoud Saleh Mohammadi also used oriental carpet as a sculptural element and he hung it from the ceiling. In Hanging Gardens, he chose a specific type of manufact, the one with floral decoration, to refer to Babylonian hanging gardens’ memory. Moreover, the choice to make them float from the ceiling refers to the position of those gardens which, according to the tradition, were said to be between earth and sky.
Ruffling the surface, he gave them a dynamic shape thus allowing the audience to see them like clouds.
In conclusion, in each way Mahmoud Saleh Mohammadi uses carpets he always succeeds in keeping alive cultural memory of his country while melting it with objects, techniques, and thoughts coming from all over the world. Indeed, contamination, even if it was born as a negative concept of introduction of external and harmful elements, in our age of globalization is now become a synonym of enrichment and union between diversities.
 Siyah mashq is the technique used by Persian calligraphers to warm hands and to refine letter writing
 Letter B is sacred for Sufis
Photo courtesy of the artist