Shannon Bool: The Eastern Carpet in the Western World Revisited

With work from:

  • Daniel Faria Gallery (Toronto)
  • Kadel Willborn (Düsseldorf)

Shannon Bool’s first solo exhibition in Calgary takes its title from a show originally staged at London’s Hayward Gallery in 1983 (The Eastern Carpet in the Western World); and her presentation focuses on a group of artworks that all refer to the complex relationship between Oriental carpets and Western art. These includes a series of carpets, tapestries and photograms (camera-less pictures made using photographic materials), and a video. In her oeuvre Shannon Bool often blurs the boundaries between art and crafts, that is to say between art and material history. Her work ‘re-activates’ archival and found imagery that takes new form and meaning once it is re-elaborated by the artist, often combining digital technology and ancient fabrication techniques.

In 2015, the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver commissioned Bool with a site-specific installation for the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, Canada Line, entitled The Flight of the Medici Mamluk. For this piece Bool had worked with a filmmaker to document a 16th century Egyptian Medici Mamluk carpet, recently rediscovered stored in the Palazzo Pitti in Florence (Italy). The video Forensics for Mamluk (HD, 8’), on display at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery this Fall, was produced by the artist during a fellowship at Villa Romana in Florence.

In the other artworks presented in Calgary, Bool collages and/or manipulates interrelated imagery originating in Western art history and material culture. Her tapestries, like the photograms, combine documentation of design and photography in the 1920’s, with uncanny material interventions, which bring together the unconscious, psychoanalysis, consumerism, politics of the body and feminist theory, desire, décor, modernism and utopia.

The Madonna Extraction Carpets series comes directly from the tradition of Northern Renaissance painting. The artist about this project: “The Flemish painters were much more invested in surface values (rendering objects, surfaces, textiles) than the correct perspective that you could find in Italian painting. While the Italian Renaissance paintings functioned like a stage, where a narrative could clearly take place, the Flemish Paintings tilt forward strangely. Erwin Panofsky, called this phenomenon ‘Schrägraum’ or ‘Crooked Room’. I narrowed down my research to few Flemish paintings of the Madonna on an Altar, where an oriental carpet functions as the entry point to the image. I extracted the carpets from the paintings digitally, but with the tilted perspective remaining.” The resulting images have then been hand-woven again into a carpet in Anatolia, using strictly traditional techniques. By returning the Oriental carpets originally depicted in Western Paintings back into the Oriental carpet tradition (where they are rewoven with their skewed Western reading) the artist poetically reflects on the history of these objects and their representation.

About the Artist

Born 1972 in Comox (BC), Shannon Bool attended Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, New York’s Cooper Union and graduated from the Staedelschule in Frankfurt a.M, Germany. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Ernst and Young Prize at the Staedelschule Frankfurt and the Villa Romana Award in Florence. Her work is presently on show at the 2016 Biennale de Montreal (Le Grand Balcon) and features in important collections including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery of Canada, Fondazione Sandretto in Turin, Berlinische Galerie Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur in Berlin and the MMK – Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt.  Bool lives in Berlin, Germany.

Exhibition Dates

Dec 1 – Feb 11, 2017

Opening Reception

Wednesday November 30
5 – 7 PM

photos 1-7 courtesy Jeremy Pavka

photos 8-15 courtesy Chelsea Yang-Smith

Public Programs

Shannon Bool Artist Talk  – November 30, 2017

Textiles Underfoot and from the Margins of History
Panel discussion with Michele Hardy, Jennifer Salahub, Mackenzie Kelly-Frere and moderated by Lorenzo Fusi
February 9, 2017


Director: Sahar Te
Performers: Louisa Brianna Adria, Craig Fahner
February 9, 2017

KHAAREJ No.2 is a performance, which shares similar methodologies and approaches of translation and cultural re-appropriation with Shannon Bool’s Eastern Carpet in the Western World. The piece is based on a poem written by Sahar Te, using mostly English words that have been appropriated by Farsi, performed by English speaking performers while the Farsi words are scratched out of the poem.


Border Crossings – Shannon Bool by Diana Sherlock