Hormazd Narielwalla works across a number of artistic disciplines including printmaking, sculpture and artist’s books but he is best known for his intricate paper collages and assemblages, which are originated on the surfaces of antique, vintage and bespoke tailoring patterns.

Viewing the utilitarian, graphic templates as ‘beautiful abstractions of the human body, that carry with them not only an outline of a garment but also a representation of the individual that wore it’, he re-interprets the long-discarded patterns, overlaying their delicate geometries with forms of his own, to express ideas about identity, memory, migration and diaspora.

Born in India and moving to the UK in 2003 originally to study as a fashion designer, Narielwalla’s practice is influenced by cross-cultural perceptions he explores in a number of ways. Fascinated by the transformative power of clothes as a means by which to project notions of character and identity, the idea of bodily adornment and costuming is a recurrent motif. Who are we? Where do we come from? Who might we become?, are themes that reverberate through-out his work.

‘Outwardly abstract … nevertheless suffused with something innately human and personal.’

Claire Wrathall

Christies Magazine Sept/Oct 2018.

Working intuitively and often in extended series, his abstract compositions recall Cubist traditions, with condensed, accumulated fragments of visual information laid out over the two-dimensional surfaces of the paper supports. The poised arrangements of line and plane can suggest fluid arrangements for the human form, exploring the dynamics of a body’s movement in conjectured three-dimensional space; or play with suggestions of the body as sculpture or icon. Freed from function the patterns provide a network of abstract marks that are the architecture upon which he constructs images that are often a subversive play with notions of gender, whether re-imaging himself as a Geisha; or celebrating the vagina, in 3D collages that recall the flower images of Georgia O’Keefe.

‘Just like the humble yet beautiful stamp, which travels the world on a paper envelope, Narielwalla’s work bears a global imprint. His fascination with human adornment also encompasses the traditions of West Africa and India, pairing European dress patterns with Indian printmaking techniques and architectural conceits to suggest new multicultural identities.’

Nancy Campbell

2015.

With their locus in the human figure, Narielwalla’s images incorporate references to aesthetics and cultures from through-out the world. Following the instructive points and lines of the original pattern the blocked planes of cut papers are selected for their associative and decorative qualities. From modest material starting points the work articulates an eloquent range of subject matter. Dead Man’s Patterns (2008) – an artist’s book inspired by the bespoke suit patterns of a deceased client of a Saville Row tailor – offers an elegiac reflection on mortality; while a commission for the Crafts Council (2013) used military uniform patterns from 1850-1947, in a sculptural installation that examined colonial narratives of the British Raj. Lost Gardens – an on-going series of collages that resemble delicate cartographic remnants embellished by passages of vivid colour – is inspired by the memory of a vanished rose garden of the artist’s childhood. Rock, Paper, Scissors (2020) – a sequence of 100 small-scale works made on the pages of a 1906 sewing manual – responds to the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth, referencing her signature pierced forms with apertures cut into the layers of applied paper.

In a number of works that reference iconic figures Narielwalla fuses ideas of form and decoration, transforming the human figure itself into a kind of abstract sculpture. A print commission published by the Victoria and Albert Museum for the exhibition ‘Frida Kahlo: Making Herself Up’ (2018), was based on a sequence of collages that celebrates the Mexican artist’s use of traditional costume in forging her distinctive and lasting visual identity. Coco Chanel (whose radical designs did so much to liberate the female body) is the focus of images that layer together intricate arrangements of pattern papers in an allusion to the skills involved in couture. Diamond Dolls (2020), a recent series of collages and limited edition artist’s book, depict a repeated motif of David Bowie’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ persona that celebrate the singer’s shape-shifting ability to project different identities through dress, make-up and performance. Each figure is defined by highly individual, sculptural costuming that allude to the gender-fluid traditions of kabuki and onnagata, which influenced Bowie in his approach to challenging conventions about sexuality and gender.

‘As a young gay man growing up in India, Western culture hardly permeated. It seeped in very gently, drop by drop. Then in the 1990s MTV started broadcasting music videos from the West and my first glimpse of David Bowie was from the 1970s, with his bright red hair and green, glass-like eyes. His beauty captured my imagination immediately. He showed me a different kind of masculinity in the character of Ziggy Stardust – the hair, the make-up, the costumes, in addition to his music and stagecraft.’

‘Bowie’s shape-shifting ability to create different personas was the starting point for images that at their basis explore ideas of transformation into another self. My dancing dolls are a form of celebration. Highly decorative and drawing on an extensive collection of papers I have sourced from all over the world, ranging from Japanese Chiyogami, Nepalese Lokta, Dutch gold and hand-blocked papers. Beauty as a form of seduction.’

Hormazd Narielwalla

June 2021.

CV

2009-2014

University of the Arts, London. PhD in Fine Art

2006-2007

University of Westminster, London. MA Fashion Design & Communication

2003-2006

University of Wales, Newport. BA Fashion Design

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2021

Diamond Dolls, Eagle Gallery/EMH Arts, London

2020

Rock, Paper, Scissors, Eagle Gallery/EMH Arts, London

2016

Lost Gardens, Southbank Centre, London

2015

Solo Showcase, Fashion Museum, Bath

2014

India Art Fair 2014, Birla Academy of Art and Culture

2009

A Study On Anansi Paul Smith, London

Selected Group Exhibitions

2021

Summer Exhibition 2021, Royal Academy of Arts, London

2021

195th Annual Exhibition of the Royal Scottish Academy, digital exhibition

2020

Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize, Drawing Projects UK, Trowbridge (& tour)
Midnight’s Family, 70 Years of Indian Artists in Britain Ben Uri Museum, London

2017

Migrations, Eagle Gallery/EMH Arts, London
No Turning Back, Migrations Museum, London

2013

Crafts Council Project Space at COLLECT, Saatchi Gallery, London


2011

Block Party Crafts Council national touring exhibition

Selected Awards / Commissions

2020

Shortlisted for the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize (Rock, Paper, Scissors)

2019

Best Limited Edition Book at the British Book Design Awards (Paper Dolls)

2019

Permanent Collection, J P Hackett, Savile Row

2016

Winner of the Paupers Press Prize at the International Print Biennale, Newcastle

2013

Print commission for the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

2009

Awarded the first International Rectors Scholarship to read a PhD at University of Arts, London

Publications

2021

Diamond Dolls, co-published by Concentric Editions and EMH Arts, London

2020

Without the Spirit, There is only Material, artist’s book

2020

Rock, Paper, Scissors, published by EMH Arts, London

2019

Sky in a Box, artist’s book

2018

Paper Dolls, co-published by Concentric Editions and Sylph Editions

2016

Lost Gardens, artist’s book

2014

Anansi Tales, artist’s book

2014

Hungarian Peacocks, artist’s book

2011

Savile Row Cutter, published by Benefactum Publishers, London

2009

Dead Man’s Patterns, artist’s book

Selected Collections

Albers Foundation Library, CT, USA
Ben Uri Museum & Gallery, London
Bower Ashton Library Special Collection, UWE, Bristol
Contemporary British Collections, British Library, London
FIT, New York, USA
Stuart Hall Library, INIVA, London
TATE (acquired through the Eagle Gallery/EMH Arts Archive)
National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Prints and Works on Paper Collection, Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Rare Books and Manuscripts, Yale Centre for British Art, CT, USA