Gallery Ark in Vadodara, Gujrat, is about to end a show ‘Otherworldly Interiors’ with British artist Alexander Gorlizki which was on view from 8th February till 8th March’20. This Brooklyn based, English artist also maintains a studio in Jaipur. He has studied Fine Art at Bristol Polytechnic, followed by an M.F.A. in Sculpture at The Slade School of Fine Art, London. His works are a contemporary rendition of the traditional Indian miniature painting style, accentuated with heavy allegorical references. They are produced by master miniature painter Riyaz Uddin and a small team of artists, creating narratives by combining Western and Indian iconographies in whimsical ways.
With knowledge of art history reflecting in his use of varied miniature traditions from across the world, ‘The Pattern Farmer’ (as he calls himself) is seen taking his play very seriously. Nupur Dalmia, Director of Gallery Ark, Vadodara, fell in love with his bright, quirky and irreverent work; like his sense of humour. Finally, we got our answers from a culturally appropriate individual, without the curiosity killing the cat.
MD: Where have these unique creatures in your paintings come from?
AG: All the imagery in the work is derived from a multitude of sources. The creatures e.g. might have their references from Safavid miniatures, Medieval European manuscripts, Hieronymus Bosch paintings, the natural history illustrations of Edward Lear, Disney cartoons and my own ‘doodles’ and automatic drawings. Even in the latter case, when they have no identifiable lineage I’m sure they can be traced to something I came across and somehow absorbed long ago. Basically, I think nothing is original!
A number of the works may take the form of one animal and the skin/ fur and colouring of another, like a giraffe painted with tiger stripes, or if it’s an object it might be a hammer painted in the colours of a parakeet from Camaroon.
MD: You have used textile patterns and cultural references from the East, juxtaposed them with Victorian handbook illustrations in both historical and contemporary manner. What genre does your art fall under?
AG: I don’t know! Maybe I’m a genre bender as I’m not attached to a category or style and am excited to move between so called ‘high’ art and whatever the opposite might be. I’m drawn towards austere minimalism one moment and cartoon imagery the next, from a baroque painting to a modernist teapot design. I might be influenced by work that is overtly political or a scientific diagram of a rabbit’s ear. What is consistent is that I prefer not to be didactic and to allow the viewer to make her own mind up rather than being told how to interpret any given work. In this respect, the viewer takes the liberty to arrive at any conclusion.
MD: What made you think of modifying Indian miniature painting style?
AG: I have spent my early years travelling with my mother who was a dealer of Central Asian textiles. Most of that was in India and Pakistan, as well as trips to Soviet Central Asia, North West China, Tibet and Afghanistan. I was strongly impacted by the skills of the craftsmen so began looking for people to work with. And India has a place where I’ve spent a lot of my time. Having had a long held interest in miniature paintings, I became interested in combining that technique with my own visual language. Ultimately it’s a technique that can be applied to numerous compositions and visual languages.
MD: What can you tell us about your collaborator Riyaz Uddin’s painting technique?
AG: He is a genius. Was earlier a commercial miniature artist. Watching him paint with a traditional miniature brush is mesmerizing, and an awe inspiring experience. I’ve been working with him for nearly 25 years, and am always amazed by his level of mastery. Since we’ve worked together for so long, our understanding of one another is also very finely tuned.
But before him I had worked with Pakistani Afghan forgers, shoemakers and spectacle repairmen, embroiderers to craft pieces of art.