We can frankly say that the work of young visual artist Alejandra Kehayoglou truly reflects her most personal aspects. We could also say that she is an environmentalist activist in the shadows, fighting through her work in textiles to avoid environmental degradation and the over exploitation of natural resources. But above all things, Alejandra is a craftsperson that works with her hands – a family traditional activity over three generations, when her greek grandmother arrived in Argentina in 1926.
So what’s striking about her work? Obviously her original textile pieces transformed into large rugs and tapestries that, further to presenting a visual aesthetic very much linked to nature, they become small and unique pieces of art by their form, concept and production process – there are are all differents.
“I like knitting nature. I feel as if in some way, through my work I am immortalizing and retaining a part of our cultural heritage”
“, she says convincingly. As she herself puts it, her pieces invite you to be witness to the art, to live in the work and to get involved in the infinity of each one of the fabric works. With a BA in Visual Arts, Alejandra first tried painting, but this medium did not allow her to convery what she wanted to communicate.
‘I had to use a three dimensional platform where I could convey all the things I had to say. Something more intimate, personal and pragmatic. So the familiar textile world I had been immersed in since I was born became a testing ground where I felt unsure from the start”
But a reinterpretation of the work that her family had been doing for decades at the family carpet and synthetic lawn factory called El Espartano was the key to developing a new way of working.
With a BA in Visual Arts, Alejandra first tried painting, but this medium did not allow her to convery what she wanted to communicate. ‘I had to use a three dimensional platform where I could convey all the things I had to say. Something more intimate, personal and pragmatic. So the familiar textile world I had been immersed in since I was born became a testing ground where I felt unsure from the start. But a reinterpretation of the work that her family had been doing for decades at the family carpet and synthetic lawn factory called El Espartano was the key to developing a new way of working.
She started producing what she calls “shelters”, with the idea of weaving tapestries that could be lived. This is how works such “Refugio para un venado”, “Refugio para una recuerdo” o “Refugio para una tarde de lluvia”, were born. Then the tapestries followed, which work very well as paintings, and later on the “Pastizales”, perhaps her most international work and the one whereby she has become known as an artist. Our carpets – she says – are made out of wool; a totally natural and renewable product that comes from the sheep that are fed by the pastizales (grasslands), hence the name of the work. These pastures were, according to her words, the vast green meadows that covered the extensive Argentine Pampa, a land that human beings have been progressively transforming.
To weave these rugs figuratively of grass is my way to support the environment conservation awareness, she says. Alejandra knows that making carpets kept her family together and it is through this link that she is now able to develop a new aesthetic language that helps her discover more of her family history. Doing this work has helped me to kearn more about my people. Weaving carpets makes me feel that I am connected to another time; it is a way of constructing something that starts with the implementation of acquired senses throughout both my life and the life of my ancestors, she says.
Alejandra is aware that not everyone understands her work and that there are critics out there too. However that is the lesser of two evils, because those who do connect with her work discover that behind each piece there is a specific history and a reality that Alejandra herself creates. Belgian designer Dries Van Noten is an unconditional admirer who has collaborated in her work during the last edition of the Paris Fashion Week creating one of her most ambitious works in a record time. “On the 25th of August 25 I received a call from producer Villa Eugenie asking whether I could create a nearly 50 meter long Pastizal to use as a platform in a fashion show in Paris. The first thing I thought was whether I was going to be able to produce the work request in so little time. There were 16 intense days working day and night. But everything went well in the end”, she says.
Her method of work have led Alejandra to discover new production processes where she links art with the trade to produce functional pieces that become complete works of art. Iindispensable components are combined in them: knowledge of the materials, technique and the overall unifying concept of the work. In her work, Alejandra uses a Masina (a handtuff gun) which she manages shiftly through the frame of vertical racks, point by point, in order to create the outline of what will become the final work. An arduous and tremendously hard production process that requires great skill and technique.
The work of Alexandra Kehayoglou has recently been awarded three special mentions by the jury of the International Design Biennial (IDB), in Madrid. But more than the awards, what Alejandra really values the most is the public recognition of her work. “It brings me great satisfaction to see how a collector or a buyer enjoys my work and I also very much value the comments and feedback from the general public”, she says.Alejandra is currently developing a project commissioned by a contemporary artist who lives in Berlin and is working on his next solo exhibition in Buenos Aires in 2015. But let us enjoy her excellent textile work in the meantime. www.alexkeha.com
This article is also available in Español