London-based Grosvenor Gallery presents a new show, entitled ‘Olivia Fraser: Miniatures’, which coincides with Asian Art in London week. We take a look at the artist’s oeuvre and its deep connection with Indian art traditions.
- "I'm essentially using an Indian vocabulary. I started off as a linguist and approach my paintings in a similar way. There is a certain meditative quality in the process of miniature painting, which is reflected in my subject matter," says Fraser, born 1965 in London. She earned an MA in Modern Languages from Oxford University before studying at Wimbledon Art College and moving to India in 1989. Initially, her work produced in India followed a program of Western watercolor painting, specializing in architectural rendering and depictions of everyday life.
- These depictions were inspired by the Company School style of painting, and, in particular, from ‘The Fraser Album’, the masterpiece of late Mughal and Company School miniatures, compiled by her kinsmen William and James Fraser in India the early 19th century.
- Part of what roots Fraser’s technique in the school of traditional Rajasthani miniature painting is her use of stone pigments, handmade paper and natural brushes. Her knowledge of the art was learnt during years of apprenticeship with Ustad (master) Ajay Sharma in Jaipur, under whose tutelage Fraser learnt how to grind and mix pigment as well as make wasli paper.
- He also taught her the benefits of using natural, locally sourced products as pigments- “I would spend hours listening to him as he managed his studio, a microcosm of the world outside, channelling it into his work, relating how he used a certain sap from a particular tree outside his front door, or chalk from the cliffs around Jaipur, local flower petals or soot from an oil lamp.”
- Over the years Fraser has mastered the technique and now employs the skills learned in Jaipur and Delhi in her delicate and elaborate paintings that draw heavily on Hindu religious mysticism and cosmological iconography. Having been especially influenced by Nathdwara pichwai painting in recent years, Fraser has been exploring its visual language, in the process creating one that seeks to convey the very essence of the Rajasthani miniature tradition in a reductive and monochromatic fashion.