It is enough to look at the photographs depicting the patterns of ikat and suzani techniques to understand: the first thing that mysteriously attracts you to them is, of course, the color palette. Color therapy is the initial stage of involvement in the magic of oriental ornaments. But when the fabric itself is in front of you and you can touch, or even try it on – here miracles begin, the explanations of which are difficult to find. Probably because, first of all, we are dealing with very ancient art, sacred art, leisurely art, which suddenly turned out to be organically inscribed in our hectic reality.
Before we start talking about what ikat is – the “correct” ikat – and how to use it, we will clarify that we turn to Islamic art, an ornament that has its very clearly defined objectives and laws. Regardless of countries and cultural traditions, as well as types of ornament (architectural, book, textile), all ethnic varieties of the Islamic pattern have loci communes. It is widely known that in Islam there is a ban on anthropomorphic and zoomorphic images, which is reflected in the typology of the ornament – floral (islimi) and geometric (girih), but this is a taboo that master artists skillfully leveled, weaving birds into their canvases (often it’s Semurg, peacocks ) and mythological animals (griffins, lions, gazelles, etc.).
The gradations of the “rigidity” of prohibitions were different in different Muslim countries, otherwise masters would never have come to such a kind of fine art as a miniature, where people and very real historical figures are present. But the miniature is still built in accordance with the religious mentality: the artist displays the world the way Allah sees it from heaven. As for the plant and flower world, Islamic painters didn’t know the limitations: unraveling plant pictograms became an exciting game, turning, according to the artists’s plan, into a walk through Jannat – paradise, the “Garden of Allah”, in which the recognizable tulip is one of the main symbols “Armut” forms with a cup narrowed upwards, as well as a paradise fruit – pomegranate drowning in all kinds of roses, nails, hyacinths, fluffy cloves connected by fancy meditative weaves.
“Devotion” to a tulip as the most typical floral image in ceramics, silk, rugs and other things is explained by the fact that this flower, according to one theory, brought to Europe from Turkey, possesses not only amazing beauty and vividness of artistic interpretations, but also a deep spiritual meaning: the Turkish name “lâle” is a phonetic anagram of the name of the Most High, therefore, for example, in the Ottoman Empire, the tulip was a symbol of the ruling dynasty – power and regality of the sultanate, truly a “royal” flower. The same “common places” can be identified in the color scheme in the art of different peoples of the East.
The traditional and sacred color of Islam – green – will be present almost everywhere, it is wonderfully in tune with the plant world of herbs and flowers, red is the color of love, blood, life, the most labor-intensive dye, and therefore the most valuable, heavenly blue – from azure to indigo – and his “brother” Turkuaz (many-sided turquoise)…
In many cases, the color code becomes a recognizable code: the trinity of white, blue and red (sometimes with a touch of green) will most likely send us to the famous works of Iznik ceramists during the heyday of the Ottoman Empire, but the ikat technique is strictly concluded in the principle of “seven colors of happiness” – exactly so many shades can be counted on the correct ikat.
Quotation, repetition of the ornament (striving for infinity) and the so-called “fear of emptiness” are another unshakable rule of the arabesque, which, if violated or clumsy “embedded” into it, an illiterate layout, can turn the work into a tasteless, colorful and, importantly, meaningless artifact, cacophony of sounds. Many scholars compare the Islamic ornament – arabesque – with music. The ornamental decor of Islamic artists, like the music of the East, pours gradually and smoothly on the surface, literally making us hear his song – for this is a song, not just music, but the words laid on the music.
Narrativeness is perhaps the central concept of the oriental pattern. Whatever side, point of view we come to it is a story, and more generally – a text. And this unconditional semiotic nature of the textile ornament creates great difficulties when working with fabric, if it does not mean a blanket or a panel, but, for example, clothes that require a pattern: to sew from such fabric is like making artisanal fit of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa frame of any format.
Traditional ikat is the most complicated and exclusively handmade technique of weaving: the yarns are pulled together in bundles and then gradually dyed in certain colors. There are many versions of the origin of this technique. According to one of them, the birthplace of ikat as the oldest weaving craft is India and Indonesia. On the other, it is localized on the territory of modern Central Asia – a genuine cultural deep-sea well, the waters of which have been saturated for many centuries with the influence of many nationalities: Turks, Persians, Arabs, Mongols…
Ferghana Valley stood out as a unique pearl here – the natural workshop of Margilan weavers and Rishtan potters, Samarkand shone with a rare diamond – the center of art and the capital of the vast empire, triumphantly recreated by Tamerlane, flourished with the wonderful garden of Bukhara … The Ferghana Valley and Tashkent, which are among the rich regions of Uzbekistan, were key points on the ancient Silk Road. “The wide fame of Bukhara and Samarkand fabrics is evidenced by the historians of the 10th century – Narshakhi, Makdisi and others. According to them, local fabrics were exported to Baghdad, Khorasan, Egypt, Syria, Byzantium and other cities.
In the middle of the 19th century, in many cities (Bukhara, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Margilan, etc.) various types of high-quality fabrics were produced and famous for their national originality and originality. ” Ikat is characteristic not only for Uzbekistan, but it is Uzbek that differs in that the pattern is applied only to the warp threads, while weft – the transverse threads of the fabric – remains plain. The fabric receives a beautiful and complex in color tint. Among the artisans of Uzbekistan, this ornament is called “abrband”, which means “tied cloud” (the word “ikat” is interpreted as “weave, weave”), therefore these ethnic motifs are often called “abr cloth”.
Thus, ikat is both a textile technique and a well-recognized ornament obtained as a result of this technique, but it is more correct to name the pattern itself, which is endless and melting like a cloud, “abr”.