ART & DESIGN
Azerbaijan is home to some of the oldest illustrations in the world. Discovered by archeologists, the Gamigaya Petroglyphs in the territory of Ordubad Rayon are dated back to the 1st to 4th centuries BC. About 1,500 dislodged and carved rock paintings with images of deer, goats, bulls, dogs, snakes, birds, fantastic beings and also people, carriages and various symbols had been found on basalt rocks in the area.
Due to its close proximity to Europe, Iran and Turkey, Azerbaijan has in its past been influenced by a tapestry of contrasting cultures including the antiquities of the Islamic Shirvan Era (12th-14th centuries) where the silk trade route bought influence to textiles and carpets from Pakistan and Uzbekistan in the east and European cultural tastes in the west, to the very different marxist Soviet Union (1920-1991), which defined an art movement of futurism and constructivism. This melting pot of traditions has resulted in the profoundly unique flavour found in the country’s visual art.
Carpets form a big part of Azerbaijani historical culture, with ancient techniques and types of carpets being both integral artistically, but also economically to the country.
Types of Azerbaijani Carpet:
Jejim – is a kind of pile-less carpet, with its weaving being one of the archaic types. Historically it would take a woman’s labour to produce. Jejims are woven with a width of 30-35 cms and length of 15-20 meters. They are made with cotton yarn in narrow horizontal stripes on a machine.
Different vertical stripes arraying are unordinary, effective, bright and decorative. In many cases weavers adorn the stripes with stylised images of household items, for example: a comb, cotton yarn, and candlestick, they also use geometrical elements. Depending on the colour and quality of the thread of wool they are smooth, single-coloured and with flower illustrations.
Kilim – is also a pileless carpet, but unlike the Jejim both the under and top side of the carpet are designed. They are one of the most common types of carpet that you would see. Kilim is characterised with ‘crack-like’ light stripes surrounded by geometrical patterns. Patterns are in the consist of a rhombus’, triangles and trapeziums according to the technology of Kilim. The composition of sewing in the different zones of the Kilim differs according to patterns and colour. By their technical characteristics Kilims can be divided into 5 basic groups, based on their region of origin and use:
Sadda – is a carpet also belonging to the pileless family. In most cases, Saddas have chess like quadrangle patterns. The most common pattern type or composition on Saddas was the camel caravan illustration comprising rhythmic horizontal stripes. Sadda has three different methods of processing respectively, these are:
- With a plot
Zili – is one of the more unusual kinds of pile-less examples of carpet. Zili carpets manufactured in Barda, Jabrail, Nakhchivan, Shirvan, Absheron, Khyzy, Tabriz, Gazakh and other regions were exported to Europe and Russia in XVIII century- early XIX century. For its composition and patterns, Zili carpets of Azerbaijan are very different. These carpets have the typical dexterity in picture and emotional expressions, typical features of their ornamental decoration is the description of the elements of big signs such as a large rhombus, a pair of horns, and other different stylised elements.
Carpet-making In historical context:
Carpet art traditionally developed during Sasanid’s reign, where carpets were woven from silk and golden-silver threads. An albanian historian, Musa Kalantarsky (VII century) had spoken about carpets woven from “silk cloths, and motley carpets”. Carpet making from golden-silver threads and adorned with precious stones had become a traditional character of XVI-XVII centuries; however, such pileless carpets called ‘Zarbaf’s’ which were mostly made in Tabriz, Shamakhy and Barda were expensive to produce, thus were made for feudal leaders.
Azerbaijani Symbolism with Carpet Weaving:
A buta is a symbolic ornament depicting a geometric flame, similar to a ’teardrop’ in shape. Tongues of the flame symbolise “The Land of Fire” and are depicted in the centre of the emblem. Colours used in the emblem are colours of the national flag of Azerbaijan. An eight-pointed star symbolises eight branches of Turkic nation.
At the bottom of the emblem is a stalk of wheat and branch of oak. The stalk of wheat symbolises richness and fertility. The branch of oak symbolizes antiquity of the country. A shield in the emblem means defence.
Buta’s are famed in Eastern countries and found in a broad territory, however they are a typical part of Azerbaijani national ornamentation and are often used by Azerbaijani master designers. There are many types of Buta and some of them have their own symbolic meanings. Today, this ornament is widely used on carpets, textiles and decoration of buildings. Due to is cultural relevance, the Buta is widely considered to be a national symbol of Azerbaijan.
For further specific information about the origin and craftsmanship of carpets, please see the links below:
Fine Art and painting is exhibited across the country, via a broad network of museums and galleries, and in Baku there are institutions dedicated to literature, fine arts, carpets, decorative arts and modern art.
National Art Museum
Built in 1981, originally as a luxury residence – The national art museum in Baku holds works from across Europe, internationally and also a large collection of Azerbaijani fine art works from the 1920’s to now. The museum transformed after independence was grasped in the 1990’s to restore it to what it is now. President Heydar Aliyev opened the Museum for its 80th anniversary where such improvements were made that works breathed a new lease of life in their surroundings.
The national art museum holds a permanent collection of traditional works from across Azerbaijan, including painting, sculpture, glass, jewellery and textiles. It has a showcase from Shusha, which by some is considered the cultural heart of Azerbaijan because so many poets, writers, singers and musicians came from the area – this is a town where many great artists were publicly celebrated – with busts of composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, the singer Bulbul and the poetess Natavan on display. These statues, now, unfortunately war damaged, were rescued to be placed in The National Art Museum in Baku.
The convergence of cultures has not only lead to a diverse and tolerant culture of people, but has also led to a flourishing contemporary art scene in Baku. As the capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city in the Caucasus, Baku has much to offer due to its unusual mixture of cultures and traditions. Artists of note include Sattar Bahlulzade (1909–74), who founded contemporary Azerbaijani landscape painting. He represented the countryside of his homeland in an impressionistic style, combining pastel colours and broad strokes. Exhibitions of his work have been held across the world and Tahir Salahov (1928) who adorned a ‘severe – style’ of depicting celebrities across the 20th century.
Baku is overflowing with galleries and opportunities for young people to get involved in the fine arts. The Museum of Modern Art which lies in the centre of Baku is the collection of the best works of painting and sculpture of Azerbaijan’s avant-guard artists of the 20th century up to now. The gallery describes itself as having a collection that shows “aspirations, strivings and freedom of human soul”. There is a set collection of works that range from European contemporaries such as Picasso to Azerbaijani contemporaries such as Tair Salakhov.
The Yarat Contemporary Gallery has a revolving show of international contemporary artists, and lies in the centre of a new cultural district by The Crystal Palace (Eurovision) and the European Games stadium. It boasts festivals, events, interactive tours and speaks about risqué topics in its cutting edge touring shows. The gallery also funds a smaller gallery in the centre of Baku called ‘YAY’ – this funds young emerging Azerbaijani contemporaries.
Architecture in Azerbaijan is a telling portrait of the countries rich and diverse history. Highlighting the trophies and keepsakes of the past compared to the fantastically contemporary and elegant present.
The earliest proof of society within Azerbaijan are not only the illustrative cave paintings found in the Gubbastan mountains, outside of Baku which today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also the dwelling adaptations made to numerous caves in the foothills of the Major Caucasus and Minor Caucasus Mountains; for examle, in the Talysh Mountains, in Nakhicheva, in Zangilan, Kalbadjar, Gadabay, Khanlar, Shamaxi as well as the Azikh cave, which was discovered in the territory of the Fuzuli region. It is determined that people lived in these caves approximately 1.5 million years ago and tried to adapt the natural structure and benefits of the caves to their lifestyle, as a result these caves show of the peoples innovation with the development of building tools. They drilled holes (flues) in the ceiling to guide fire smoke out of the cave, and they made special hollows into internal walls to keep their tools.
This construction work that was carried out in caves by these ancient people resulted in the appearance of well engineered artificial caves in more locations across azerbaijan. The artificial caves were built into into sheer cliffs and at the foothills of the mountains, just as you would expect a natural caves to be situated. They can be found in the south-eastern foothills of the Major Caucasus, in the Minor Caucasus, on the Bargushad and Akara banks in the Gubadli region, near the villages of Maraza, Sundi and Darakandi in the Shirvan region, as well as in the territories, which long ago belonged to the ancient states of Manna and Midia. These artificial caves were found to have been built by the ancient Azerbaijani people at a certain height above ground level, most likely for security reasons.
The methods of artificial cave construction started changing after the invention of masonry, when could build new mud and half-mud huts, however these buildings were still usually constructed into mountainsides and hillsides.
As in these times people did not have strong skills in upward engineering , buildings that spanned over two floors would contain an underground grotto as a lower part, while the upper part (the entrance) served as a porch of natural stones to protect them from heat and cold. Scientists report that such buildings existed even before the state of Midiya and were widespread during the period of Midiya.
Architecture in Azerbaijan typically combines elements of the Orient of the East and treasures of Europe from the West. Many ancient architectural treasures such as the medievally timed Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs inside the UNESCO marked walled city of Iceriseher in Baku, survive and are utilised in modern Azerbaijan.
Among other medieval architectural treasures as in Baku, the country also boasts the Palace of Shaki Khans in the town of Shaki in north-central Azerbaijan, the Surakhany Temple on the Apsheron Peninsula, a number of bridges spanning the Aras River, and several mausoleums.
In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries few monuments were erected in a similar fashion, however distinctive residences were built in Baku and elsewhere. Baku is know for its early 1900’s architecture which links predominantly to the democratic Republic of Azerbaijan formed in 1918. This was also at the time of the great ‘Oil Boom’ in Azerbaijan which was catalysed by companies being set up on the caspian sea during this time and building lavish buildings as homes and offices. These buildings are large blocks, with decorative stone facades, traditional of western Edwardian architecture. They starkly sit beside the aforementioned medieval gems such as The Maiden Tower.
Azerbaijan has a heritage of championing architecture in different periods of history, and over the past 20 years have embraced some stunning statement buildings in its cities. Good architecture is for all in the minds of the Azerbaijani people and parallel to there famous architectural monuments, the public sector’s subways in Baku stand out for their lavish decor. The urban planning and architectural activities are regulated by the State Committee for City Building and Architecture of Azerbaijan Republic.
Architecture To Note:
Baku TV Tower – Completed 1996
This tower, the tallest ‘structure’ in Azerbaijan was designed on commission from the Ministry of Communications of Azerbaijan State Institute of the Ministry of Communications of the USSR. Construction work began in 1979 and according to the project construction plan it should have been completed in 1985. After the return of Heydar Aliyev to power in 1993, the construction of the tower was continued, and in 1996 with his participation, the official opening ceremony of the complex was carried. The telecommunications tower is 310m tall and made of concrete with a nod to a brutalist era of architecture in Europe around the late 1960’s / 107’s. A rotating restaurant on the 62nd floor (175 metres) of theTV Tower was opened in 2008 and is now one of Azerbaijan’s most famous eateries.
The Heydar Aliyev Centre – Completed 2003 – Architect – Zaha Hadid
The Heydar Aliyev Centre is a 619,000-square-foot building complex in Baku, Azerbaijan designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and noted for its distinctive architecture and flowing, curved style that eschews sharp angles. The centre is named after Heydar Aliyev, the leader of Soviet-era Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1982, and president of Azerbaijan from October 1993 to October 2003. It contains a museum dedicated to Aliyev and contains some of the countries jewels in presidential gifts and momentous. This cultural centre is also home to a revolution of contemporary museum exhibitions and art shows. It has been hailed as one of the late Hadid’s greatest designs and draws a lot of international interest.
The Flame Towers – Completed 2012
The three towers are the tallest skyscrapers in Baku, with a height of 190m. The buildings consist of luxury apartments, a hotel and an office block, which strongly identify todays main architectural uses of modern Baku. These grand glass buildings have an estimated cost of approximately US $350 million and construction began in 2012 by HOK architects. The Flame Towers consist of three buildings; south, east and west. The facades of the three Towers are turned into gigantic display screens with the use of more than 10,000 high-power LED luminaires every evening to provide an interactive light show for the city. This light show has catalysed the evening scene of Baku which is now a city of light, which many buildings following suit and providing an array of light shows at dusk.
For further information about architecture in Azerbaijan, please see the links below: