Dazzling rug designs by celebrated artists

Rugs become canvases for artistic expression

The rug as a work of art isn’t a new concept. After all, in Persia they were making rugs over 2,500 years ago, and although nobody quite knows who was responsible for the designs, it is generally agreed that many of them were very high art indeed. These days, the rug has become an obvious canvas for artistic endeavour – it’s flat, it takes colour beautifully and, put in the right place, it’s highly visible.

Christopher and Suzanne Sharp of The Rug Company famously reinvigorated the world of rugs by getting celebrated designers (Vivienne Westwood, Eva Zeisel and Paul Smith, among others) to inject some modernity into the genre. Then, in 2010, they commissioned 15 contemporary artists to design hand-woven tapestries for their Banners of Persuasion exhibition. Now they’ve asked one of them, the Turner Prize-nominated Young Brit Artist Paul Noble, to create two new limited-edition rugs. Big Sun (second picture, left) and Six Suns are new explorations of his sun motifs.

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“I was trying to give the impression of standing on the shore looking at the horizon,” Noble says, “and experiencing a brightness of light and a slippage of space.” Hand-knotted from grey Tibetan wool and silk, they are calm and beautiful. Each measures 2.74m x 1.83m, costs £9,377 and is in an edition of five, signed by the artist.

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Meanwhile, Foundation Rugs was set up by Mark Hanlon and Nick Hartwright specifically to channel artists’ talents into the field of rugs. They draw on a big pool of talent, using names whose work they love, whether that involves graffiti, street art, pop culture or graphic art. So far they have designs by Natasha Law, Si Scott, Yann Brien of the Handwash Studio, Anthony Burrill, Pete Fowler and many more. A single rug in each style is made on original looms in a 19th-century palace in Cairo and then there’s a further run of 20 in the UK. Most cost £3,000 (150cm x 200cm) and range from Burrill’s scarlet-and-yellow geometric pattern (second picture, right) to Scott’s pale grey-and-yellow mystic’s face.

Then there’s Culture Vulture Direct, which has a very charming Kandinsky-inspired geometric wool rug (£229, first picture, 152cm x 90.5cm), hand-stitched in Kashmir, while Pip Benveniste was the artist behind an enchanting range at Land Rugs (£400 per sq m). Benveniste was famous for her use of colour, which reflects the sea- and landscapes of Cornwall, and her rugs are imbued with the same captivating aesthetic.

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