Moscow Textile Art

There is a big group of textile artists in Moscow, associated in a special section at the Moscow Artists Union. This collective started its creative activities in the sixties and since then textile art has been constantly developing; young artists, graduating from Moscow Textile Institute, join the older generation. Numerous tapestries and curtains by Moscow artists beautifully decorate public interiors — they are displayed in clubs, hotel and theatre halls, and state institutions. The chief aim of these works is not
only additional decorativeness — they establish harmonious links with the archi tectural forms and enrich living environment artistically.

Moscow textiles look especially impressing when exhibited — they take a prominent place at All-Union art exhibitions as well as at special shows devoted to applied arts. Among the most memorable shows we can mention Tapestry and Sculpture Exhibition (1986) and Moscow Art Tapestry (1989) which was a great success. Our collection for foreign public contains the major part of it. Moscow textile is very varied — as many individual human characters as many styles and images. The stylistics of Moscow textile art goes through evolution, absorbing the influences of time, but preserving its basic principles.

A leading genre of Moscow artists is tapestry woven traditionally on a hand-operated loom, with woollen and linen threads, and sometimes sizal and lurex.

All stages of the weaving process – preliminating drawing, cartoon, yarn dying and weaving itself are executed personally by the author (sometimes with the help of assistants).

Special attention is paid to the accuracy, high professionalism, selection of colours and textures. A major part of tapestries has a figurative or decorative plot, they show landscape or floral motifs, space ideas, contemporary life problems. How ever, the realization of these themes is far from picturesqueness or imitation of painting. They are absolutely original, symbolic decorative compositions filled with inner sense and artistic expressiveness.

Such specific features of Moscow tapestry are deeply rooted in Russian national traditions in which artists were brought up, in national heritage — for example, church frescoes, ecclesiastical embroidery on shrouds and gonfalons. These early Russian pieces show solemn spirit, rhythmical composition, harmonious combination of soft colours, generalized forms and silhouettes. Besides silks, early Russian embroidery was worked in golden and silver threads. These sublime ancient images lie in the subconscious of Moscow artists and engender in modern tapestry their inner significance and solemnity. Soviet textile artists pay also great respect to the traditions of medieval European tapestry, its generalized composition and smooth technique with elaborate combinations of colours. Certain influence comes from contemporary French tapestry as well, from such known masters, as Lurcat, Ledoux and Sam-Saens. Imbibing great traditions of the past, mastering their skills, Soviet artists have gradually worked out their own artistic language and are speaking it now to tell people about our times, thoughts and outlooks of a modern man.

On the whole, Russian artists turn to philosophical meditation and metaphorical thinking. Their plastic language can be called allegorical, their images carry inner sense; forms and colours are filled with strong emotions.

European applied art specialists might consider Moscow tapestry too traditional, deprived of experiment with plastic means and different materials. Soviet artists make such experiments, too, but, as a rule, they have only temporary character, close to a study, a provisional test of material, its structure and plastic qualities. Such pieces usually remain at artists’ studios as their private experience. At the exhibitions fully completed works of art are displayed — the result of the quest for the realization of a preconceived concept. Deliberately limiting themselves in plastic and three-dimensional experiments, artists direct all their creative efforts to formulate the internal idea of their work and find means to express it through tapestry technique.

Several years ago a totally new genre in textile has appeared — a unique artistic costume. Its makers don’t pursue the idea of making stylish clothes or something filled for everyday wear. The unique costume is the same work of free imagination, as in any other genres of decorative art. It’s a fantastic costume, very romantic, full of play and histrionity. It is also hand-made — often the artists paint fabrics themselves, using handmade embroidery and lace and adding details of their own design — hats, jewelry, fans. The artist is not just making clothes, but each time produces a new and original image of a woman: she becomes either a beautiful girl in early Russian clothes or a lady in black lace in ‘retro’ style, or a jolly girl at a picturesque fair, or a mischievous Colombine, or a woman from the future, ready for space travel…. These are not stylizations of old samples, the pieces speak modern language of forms and colours. The dress shape is independent, being more an alive sculpture, freely arranged in space. Certainly, artictic costumes look most appealing on models, in movement, when dressed up woman play a small performance on the stage.

It is important, that in such a local, utilitarian genre as costume, there find realization different art styles, including Russian avant-garde and contemporary trends.

The appearance of girls in picturesque costumes, accompanied by music, their rhythmic gestures and staged situations make an original performance — a popular art of younger generation.

Ludmila Kramarenko