The piece is part of Be/longing: Contemporary Asian Art at Seattle Asian Art Museum. This exhibit features 12 Asian artists of varied geographic and cultural backgrounds who work, have worked, or live primarily outside of Asia. Be/longing explores their relationship to their Asian heritage and offers a nuanced and varied perspective on what it means to belong.


Trained as a sculptor, Faig Ahmed is an Azerbaijani visual artist who works primarily with hand-knotted wool carpets. He's interested in traditional Azerbaijani weaving practices, but the final results often look like he dropped acid along the way. He warps patterns in original, trippy, liquid-like ways. He represented Azerbaijan at the country's first pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2007, and he has shown work in exhibitions in New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Moscow, and Seattle.


"As an artist, I was looking for a modern language of art to talk about the future, but I found an ancient one and started talking about the present," Ahmed said in a 2018 interview about his choice of carpet as an artistic medium. Rugs have a revered place in Azerbaijani culture, often being passed down from generation to generation and are present in everyday life. It took him years to convince traditional weavers to collaborate with him because of his unorthodox approach to his craft. He now works with a team of 25 weavers at times.


Ahmed is interested in remixing and rethinking possessions, fine art, exports, and decorations. His pieces are a delightful and disorienting meditation on traditional aesthetics and practices, confronting them with his distinct penchant for weird internet-influenced glitchiness. Oiling—which starts off looking like a recognizable, Eastern rug—descends into chaos, suggests both tradition and modernity.


Ahmed first sketches his ideas for a pattern in Photoshop, blending traditional decorations and symbols that he distorts, distends, or melts down. Making a to-scale copy, Ahmed then passes his sketch to his collaborators, a workshop of women who specialize in traditional weaving. They stitch together the carpet using a 300-year-old technique and natural-dyed wool or silk threads.


The basic colors in Azerbaijani carpets are red, yellow, blue, dark blue, green, black, purple, and cream, all of which are present in Oiling. Traditionally, the tints are made from green walnut shells, the skin of pomegranates, indigo, mulberry leaves, quince, and madder root.