Pirot Notes comprises a body of work encapsulating a yearlong journey made overland from Central Asia to Serbia following the historical trade route and eventual introduction of carpet making to Pirot. During this time Stojanović learnt the art of carpet making and later created this series at the Icelandic Textile Centre in Blönduós, Iceland, where she was an artist in residence during November 2017. The work raises concerns about the preservation of tradition in modern society in drawing direct reference to the artists own ancestral link to Pirot ćilim weavers and the broader tradition of carpet making in Serbia.
Once a prosperous town in central Serbia, Pirot was home to many weavers, and as recent as 1965 over eighteen hundred women lived and weaved there. Now, sadly, only fifteen women practice the tradition of carpet making in Pirot, with the number in fast decline as rural youth continually migrate to larger cities and financial support nears non existence for this art form in the country. They are remembered and celebrated by an older generation and these days uncommon to find in the contemporary homes of Belgrade. Heavily influenced by Turkish designs the Pirot ćilims are recognised for their bold geometric patterns and distinctive bright colours. However, Stojanović aims not to replicate the designs used in traditional ćilims, but her series depicts the visual impressions left on the artist during her time spent in Serbia.
Blending traditional symbols and patterns of Pirot ćilims with the modern symbols seen everywhere on the streets of Belgrade Stojanović creates a visual conversation between the past and present. The rugs therefore employ traditional colours and are adorned with the common historical motifs of running water, hooks and stars, representing life, protection and prosperity, yet arranged subtly beside the motifs of favoured sports brands worn widely by Eastern European youth. The culture for sport in Serbia is infamous and Stojanović draws upon this aspect in her hand woven scarf titled Self Support, merging the blatantly masculine sport culture of Serbia with the traditionally feminine act of weaving. Geometry is another key element utilised in Stojanović’s work, seen in both traditional ćilims and the aesthetic of urban Serbia’s socialist style blokovi and architecture. The Herringbone Parquet Rug is a direct association between the geometry of the old carpets and the geometry of the modern floors that are no longer covered by them.
In playing with these binaries of old and new, Pirot Notes abstracts the dying art of Pirot carpets by incorporating contemporary symbolism. Ultimately questioning what there is to be lost for a cultures history in the discontinuation of tradition. Furthermore, given this work is made in an age where these ćilims value is displayed in the opposing binaries of ‘the souvenir shop’ in which most carpets are manufactured, and the heritage museum’ that may house the very last handmade carpets, Stojanović’s work alludes to a state of laxity within modern culture itself. A culture focused on an inevitable forward motion towards certain progress and the potential mistakes of abandoning its past.
Left: Pirot Notes, Handwoven tapestry made with wool, cotton and linen, 95 x 80 cm, 2017
Right: Herringbone Parquet Rug, Handwoven tapestry made with wool and cotton, 32 x 35 cm, 2017
Left: Pirot Ode, Handwoven tapestry made from wool, cotton and linen, 45 x 82 cm, 2017
Right: Of The Border, Handwoven tapestry made from wool, 17 x 15 cm, 2017
Left: Staircase, Coloured pencil on paper, 28 x 42 cm, 2017
Lampshade, Coloured pencil on paper, 28 x 42 cm, 2017
Right: Wool Print, Ink, wool and paper, 100 x 69 cm, 2018
Self Support, Handwoven tapestry scarf made from Icelandic wool, cotton and linen, worn by the artist, 25 x 174 cm, 2017, 28 x 42 cm, 2017
Photographs © Joel Boardman