ART & DESIGN
Azerbaijan is home to some of the oldest illustrations in the world: The Gamigaya Petroglyphs in the territory of Ordubad Rayon are dated back to the 1st to 4th centuries BC. To date, archaeologists have discovered about 1,500 dislodged and carved rock paintings. They have recorded images of deer, goats, bulls, dogs, snakes, birds, fantastic beings and also people, carriages and various symbols on basalt rocks throughout the area.
Due to its close proximity to Europe, Iran and Turkey, an impressive tapestry of contrasting cultures have influence Azerbaijan. From the antiquities of the Islamic Shirvan Era (12th-14th centuries); 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. Eventually, this melting pot of traditions has resulted in the profoundly unique flavour found in the country’s visual art.
Carpets formed a big part of Azerbaijani historical culture. Interestingly, ancient techniques and types of carpets continue to be integral, artistically and economically, to the country.
Types of Azerbaijani Carpet:
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. Weavers make Jejims to a width of 30-35 cms and length of 15-20 meters. They are machine-made with cotton yarn in narrow horizontal stripes.
Different vertical stripes are normally typical, effective, bright and decorative. However, 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 or with flower illustrations.
Is also a pileless carpet. Unlike the Jejim, artisans design both the under and top sides of the carpet. 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 usually consist of a rhombus’, triangles and trapeziums according to the technology of Kilim. The composition of weaving 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:
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
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 by merchants to Europe and Russia in XVIII century- early XIX century. Notably, its composition and patterns, Zili carpets of Azerbaijan are very unique. These carpets, like many other Azerbaijani carpets have refined pictures and emotional expressions. However, unique features of their ornamental decoration include big signs such as a large rhombus, a pair of horns, and often stylised elements.
Carpet-making In historical context
Artisans developed carpet weaving, most notably during Sasanid’s reign. During this period, people began to weave carpets from silk and golden-silver threads. An Albanian historian, Musa Kalantarsky (VII century) spoke about carpets woven from “silk cloths, and motley carpets”. Carpet making from golden-silver threads and adorned with precious stones had become characteristic of XVI-XVII centuries. However, such pileless carpets called ‘Zarbaf’s’ which were mostly made in Tabriz, Shamakhy and Barda. They were expensive to produce, thus were usually reserved 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 typically depicted in the centre of the emblem. Colours used in the emblem are also 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.
Butas are famed in Eastern countries and found in a broad territory. However they are a typical part of Azerbaijani national ornamentation and Azerbaijani master designers often use Butas. 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, many consider the Buta to be a national symbol of Azerbaijan.
For further specific information about the origin and craftsmanship of carpets, please see the links below:
A broad network of Azerbaijani museums and galleries exhibit many works of F ine Art and painting, across the country. In particular, in Baku there area several 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 now holds works from across Europe, internationally and a noteworthy collection of Azerbaijani fine art works from the 1920’s to now. The Azerbaijani government transformed the museum after independence, restoring it in the 1990’s to what it is today. President Heydar Aliyev opened the Museum for its 80th anniversary, making improvements to the museum, that 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. Susha is a town considered by many to be the cultural heart of Azerbaijan because so many poets, writers, singers and musicians came from the area. Many great artists were publicly celebrated here. For example, busts of composer Uzeyir Hajibeyov, the singer Bulbul and the poetess Natavan were once placed on display. These statues, however, sadly war damaged, have been rescued and now exhibited 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) and Tair Salakhov (1928). Bahlulzade founded contemporary Azerbaijani landscape painting. He represented the countryside of his homeland in an impressionistic style, combining pastel colours and broad strokes. He has exhibited work across the world.
Salakhov is, in contrast, known for his adorned, ‘severe – style’ of depicting celebrities across the 20th century.
Baku offers and abundance of 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. It 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 include the illustrative cave paintings found in the Gubbastan mountains, outside of Baku. As such, today, the site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Early Cave Shelters
There are also a number of examples of dwelling adaptations made to numerous caves in the foothills of the Major Caucasus and Minor Caucasus Mountains. These have all been given UNESCO World Heritage status for their historical and cultural significance.
Researchers have found more cave paintings in the Talysh Mountains, in Nakhicheva, in Zangilan, Kalbadjar, Gadabay, Khanlar, Shamaxi. This is in addition to the famous Azikh cave, which was discovered in the territory of the Fuzuli region.
Archaeologists have determined that people lived in these caves approximately 1.5 million years ago and believe that they 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 also made special hollows into internal walls to keep their tools.
Ancient people eventually developed this cave-adaptation into the construction of well engineered artificial caves in more locations across Azerbaijan. The artificial caves were, similarly, built 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.
The ancient Azerbaijani people built these artificial caves at a certain height above ground level, probably for security reasons.
The methods of artificial cave construction started changing after the invention of masonry. People now began to build new mud and half-mud huts. They continued to build them into into mountainsides and hillsides.
Since, the people did not yet 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, as well as treasures of Europe from the West.
Many ancient architectural treasures such as the medieval, Maiden Tower and Palace of the Shirvanshahs’ inside the UNESCO marked walled city of Iceriseher in Baku, survive and flourish. Modern Azerbaijan continues to value and utilize these great works.
Among other medieval architectural treasures, 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 impressive bridges spanning the Aras River, and several mausoleums.
19th and 20th Century Architecture
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 also known for its early 1900’s architecture linked predominantly to the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan, formed in 1918. This was also at the time of the great ‘Oil Boom’ in Azerbaijan. The companies being set up on the Caspian Sea during this time also built many of the new, lavish buildings as homes and offices.
Typically, these buildings were designed as large blocks, with decorative stone facades that can be likened to western Edwardian architecture. They sit in stark contrast beside the Medieval gems such as The Maiden Tower.
Azerbaijan has a heritage of championing architecture in different periods of history. In particular, over the past 20 years, the cities have embraced some stunning statement buildings. As a result, good architecture is for all in the minds of the Azerbaijani people.
In keeping with this philosophy, parallel to their famous architectural monuments, are the public sector’s subways in Baku. Undeniably, the subways stand out for their lavish decor and oppulance.
The State Committee for City Building and Architecture of Azerbaijan Republic regulates all urban planning and architectural activities in Azerbaijan.
Architecture To Note:
Baku TV Tower – Completed 1996
This tower is the tallest ‘structure’ in Azerbaijan. The Ministry of Communications of Azerbaijan State Institute of the Ministry of Communications of the USSR originally commissioned its design. Workers began construction in 1979 and the Ministry intended in completion in 1985.
Therefore, it was only after the return of Heydar Aliyev to power in 1993, the construction of the tower was continued. In 1996 with his participation, the official opening ceremony of the complex too place.
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 / 70’s. Additionally, a rotating restaurant on the 62nd floor ( at 175 metres) of the TV Tower was opened in 2008 and has quickly become 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. Hence, it is notable for its distinctive flowing lines and 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 notably, contains some of the country’s jewels in presidential gifts. This cultural centre is also home to a revolution of contemporary museum exhibitions and art shows. Fans hail the building as one of the late Zaha Hadid’s greatest designs and it continues to draw a lot of international interest.
The Flame Towers – Completed 2012
The three towers are the tallest skyscrapers in Baku, due to their height of 190m. The buildings consist of luxury apartments, a hotel and an office block, which form today’s 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 turn into gigantic display screens with the use of more than 10,000 high-power LED luminaires every night, so every evening the city hosts an interactive light show. 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.