Carpet for the Burgerzaal, Royal palace, Amsterdam, 1993
In 1993, Barbara was asked to make a design for a handtufted carpet for the citizen hall of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.
For this special commission, the building itself was Barbara’s main inspiration. Situated in the city center, on Damsquare, the Palace was an important focus in the flourishing business center of Amsterdam, especially during the Golden Age. Although the position of Amsterdam is not that prominent anymore, the city and the palace still fulfill an important symbolic role.
Built in the seventeenth century, the palace was originally meant as a city hall where the jurisdiction was practiced. It is for that reason one can still find many iconographic references to justice, greed and wisdom. During the nineteenth century the city hall was handed over to Napoleon, who transformed it into his palace. Ever since, it has been a residence to many kings, and still the Dutch King Willem Alexander welcomes his international guests here.
This extensive history can still be experienced in the building, by looking at the many sculptures and wall paintings, and the harmonious architecture. Barbara thoroughly researched the history and the iconography of the palace, challenged by the search for a new way to embed the rich tradition of textiles into the historical context of the Burgerzaal.
Colour and geometrics are primarily the basis of Barbara’s work. During her career she tries to give these concepts a different interpretation in every design she makes. For the carpet in the Burgerzaal she designed a geometric core pattern which holds the composition together, but creates movement at the same time. In addition, the colour and composition she uses are very detailed.
Therefore, not only the complete work, but the separate sections as well are attractive and interesting to look at.
The carpet was build up in the classic way, which means it contains a motive on all edges, a centre half and a centre point. With this type of design, Barbara clearly refers to the century old roots of the carpet tradition. The oval centre half can be read as a spatial projection of a globe. Due to anamorphosis, this will be recognised only from certain corners.
After all, the impressive seventeenth-century iconography of the palace inspired Barbara to create her own modern visual language. Looking at the old motives, which served the analphabetic part of the people in understanding important mythological and religious subjects, she concluded that our modern time does not recognise a visual language like that anymore. What we do know, is the compulsory loads of advertising, commercials and other messages that we communicate by images. By including modern subjects and news items in the carpet, Barbara created her own personal interpretation of the modern world in 1993. Her starting point for the design was the theme of the four winds, to which the iconography is adjusted:
- South: shows the problems in Africa: Apartheid, racism, wars and hunger
- North: shows advertising imagery in which references to racism, wealth and violence are placed next to images with a dramatic, happy, or aggressive character
- East: war imagery from former Yugoslavia, problems in Eastern-Europe and the Islamic world
- West: mostly American pictures about stardom, bodyculture, popmusic, sex, violence and commerce
In general the design deals with the contrasts between rich and poor, war and peace, hate and love and justice and injustice.