31 AUGUST 2019 Y.
Wood had a special significance in the Middle East. The mountainous and desert terrain did not allow the use of wood in large quantities because of its value. But its plasticity, malleability inspired ancient artists to create masterpieces. In Central Asian architecture carved wood decorates mainly exterior doors and gates, columns of massive residential buildings, palaces, and shrines. To this day, the art's general artistic principles and local features have been preserved in the works of contemporary masters.
Contemporary Uzbek carvers retain the main technical techniques of the old ways. Hardwoods are the material for carving: juniper, plane tree, elm, pear tree, and walnut. Drawing is put on a smooth surface of a tree with the help of a template-cutting tool or by hand, using a circular, ruler, and a triangle. The carving is most often done by gouging out the background. The surface of the relief is sometimes left smooth, sometimes it is subjected to additional finishing, tracing the details of the pattern and giving it some volume. Known two- and three-plane carving, where large motifs of the pattern are above the smaller ones. Sometimes a pattern is made deepened, carved on the plane of the tree in a technique that can be called three-sided. This complex technique allows a master to achieve a great artistic effect, based on a light and shade contrast between the background and the ornamentation.
The Khiva carved wood pattern is extraordinarily rich and varied. Numerous elements of graceful elongated scrolls, trefoils, and flower rosettes, typical of Uzbek and Tajik folk art, can be found here. There are also large ornamental compositions, the so-called range, a huge medallion occupying the entire central field of the door.
The ornamentation of Central Asia is divided into two types - floral and geometric. The disputes among orientalists about the meaning of the symbolism of Central Asian ornaments have not ceased till now, but each design has a certain meaning. Many people see the geometry of drawing as a symbol of the world: the background is space, the pattern is existence. And the plant ornament in this regard has acquired the greatest semantic load.
The intertwining of floral motifs, a fetus, and a flower gave a notion of unity, cause-and-effect relationship, the past and the future expressed the idea of creation. Often the solar ornament on the plank over the entrance - a dragon or ram's horns - played the role of a talisman. Many benevolent symbols - almonds, pepper, pomegranate - brought prosperity and fertility to the house.
In the East, symbols are everywhere - another thing is that it is often very difficult to recognize them now. But fact-finding is the province of Orientalists, and we can simply use our imagination.
It is a pleasure to look through the doors of Ichan-Kala. Behind the carved pattern, what is there that hides this ancient amulet, protection from prying eyes? Who was saved by this door, and for whom it closed, leaving to the mercy of fate? Or, perhaps, on the threshold of the house long looked after leaving, not daring to cover the patterned flaps? Or on the contrary, waiting, sitting at the door, to see if a familiar silhouette appears?
Sometimes the doors are arranged in a completely bizarre way, in a seemingly inconvenient location. This is due to the symbolism of the location. It is believed that the door - oriented to the north, "brings" in the house of children and good breeding cattle. Do not place the door to the west, it is unfavorable. Perhaps the reason lies on a completely different plane - and everything depends on the direction of the winds, but in any case, all this is far from being truly researched and has an exhaustive answer.
Still, in Khiva, door-making is done as it was centuries ago - artisanally. No automation, only the sensitive hands of a master and his apprentices. With this approach, the door gets its special aura, invested in it by the artist. Like a real painting.
A set of tools consists of 30 chisels of different shapes and sizes. The chisel is placed perpendicular to the surface to be decorated so that it coincides with the line of the pattern transferred by the feathering, and from above a special hammer is struck on the handle by the master. To give the hardwood elasticity, the master covers it with a wet cloth to moisten it.
An interesting way to preserve wooden doors is to treat the column or door with hot cotton oil after the work is done. Such wood is not afraid of the sun or damp.
The most amazing doors are the entrances to the Juma Mosque.
Perhaps, you won't see such a pattern and such a strangely amazing bluish hue anywhere else. It looks like some kind of secret writing, which would be very interesting to decipher. And this mosque itself is unique in structure, it has no portals, domes, galleries, and a courtyard. The mosque is accessible from three sides.
The Juma Mosque is supported by 213 columns carved from whole Karagach trunks and decorated with fanciful carvings. The upwardly pointing, thinning columns, despite the weight they bear, seem unusually thin and graceful.
In the works of Khiva masters of the past and modern, the guardians of traditions, one can always feel the approach of a strict artist with his own composition, light, and shade, and considers his art's function.
There must be a place for this magnificent craftsmanship in future architecture, rich in ornamental motifs and artistic techniques.
The press service of Dolores Travel Services would like to thank Timur Madaminov, guide-interpreter, Khiva, for his help in preparing the material and searching for information.