Radical take on kitsch
22 July, 2017
A different view on embroidered wall rugs offers artist Lyuben Farzulev at the exhibition centre on 6 Shipka Street. Here is how he describes the show that will remain open to visitors until the end of the month.
If you enter the Bulgarian word for “wall rug” in a search engine, the following definition will pop up: “weaved or embroidered textile product, normally used as a wall decoration.” That is all, there are not even pictures to illustrate it. An entire period of about 100 years reduced to one meagre sentence. Almost every Bulgarian house sported these traditional wall rugs embroidered by the mistress of the home. They were widely used as interior decorations. In some regions they even made up part of the trousseau. To this day, wall rugs can be seen in some rural and even urban homes.
In my childhood memories, I go back to a wall rug featuring blue thread hanging over the stove. It depicted a boat in a lake, carrying a man playing a guitar and a young woman listening to him. A castle could be seen in the distant background. There were wall rugs in my aunt’s room and over the bed on the ground floor too.
Wall rugs are not specific to Bulgaria, they are all over Europe. The trend was likely exported by Germany, Austria and Russia. It is possible that it was brought to Bulgaria by King Ferdinand I.
If you type “kitsch” into a search engine, you will be barraged by compound sentences. All artists lay claim on a “richly artistic soul”. This vague concept is held over us mere mortals, condemning everything and anything that is not to the artist’s liking. Highbrow art is perceived as unattainable for the simple reason that it is lofty and we are all supposedly mired in the darkness of kitsch.
The Bulgarian words for “kitsch” and “wall rugs” go hand in hand. At least, that is what we are thought to believe, what is ingrained in us. This is why nowadays wall rugs are frowned upon. They are thrown out and stigmatised as vulgar.
I must oppose this notion. I am confident that the emotions an intellectual experiences marvelling at a work of art are the same that the creator of a wall rug goes through. Let us not forget that a professional artwork is created to bring money, which puts it in the category of tradable goods. Wall rugs, however, are embroidered for the pure pleasure of it. Far from serving commercial purposes, they are made to bring joy and decorate a house. People enjoy different things.