Dusk by Olivia Fraser - 2012, Pigment, Arabic gum on handmade Sanganer paper (63 x 63cm)
Dawn by Olivia Fraser - 2012, Pigment, Arabic gum on handmade Sanganer paper (63 x 63cm)
Seven Oceans, Seven Continents by Olivia Fraser - 2010, Pigment, Arabic gum, gold leaf on handmade Sanganer paper (47 x 47cm)
The Blue Lotus by Olivia Fraser - 2010, Pigment, Arabic gum on handmade Sanganer paper (86 x 86cm)
Bakri by Olivia Fraser – 2008, Pigment, Arabic gum, gold leaf on handmade Sanganer paper (21.5 x 31.7cm)
Awakening by Olivia Fraser – 2012, Pigment, Arabic gum, gold leaf on handmade Sanganer paper (47 individual works 24 x 24cm each)
Triptych: Creation by Olivia Fraser – 2011, Pigment, Arabic gum, gold leaf on handmade Sanganer paper (170 x 74cm)
Triptych: Genesis by Olivia Fraser – 2011, Pigment, Arabic gum, gold leaf on handmade Sanganer paper (47 x 47cm each)
All paintings courtesy of Grosvenor Gallery www.grosvenorgallery.com
In 1989 Olivia Fraser travelled to India, following in the footsteps of her kinsman James Baillie Fraser, who painted India, its monuments and landscape in the early 1800s. She set out to continue where he had left off, painting the architecture of India and its people. Years before, James Baillie Fraser had commissioned local artists to paint what has now become the famous Fraser Album – the greatest masterpiece of Company School painting, portraying the different types of people and their jobs, crafts or castes against stark white backgrounds. This hybrid form of painting, where Indian artists created something that mixed techniques and ideas from the East and the West, greatly influenced Olivia‘s early work.
Olivia studied the traditional Indian miniature painting technique under Jaipuri master Ustad Ajay Sharma. It was under his tutelage that she learned how to grind and mix pigment and make wasli paper. Sharma also taught her the benefits of using natural, locally sourced products as pigments. “I would spend hours,” she says, “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.”
She also apprenticed herself to the pichwai-making studio of Desmond Lazaro, learning about the iconography, vocabulary and geometry behind this living devotional art form where the miniature technique is used on cloth on a large scale as temple backdrops to the image of the Hindu god Shrinathji in Nathdwara, Rajasthan.
Over the years Olivia has mastered these techniques and she now employs the skills she learnt in her delicate and elaborate paintings, which draw heavily on Hindu religious mysticism and cosmological iconography. Her use of stone pigments, handmade paper and natural brushes combines with her knowledge of the art to produce exquisite miniatures with gem-like stone colours, unique miniature brushwork, and elaborate decorative and burnished surfaces.
Drawing on her early studies of modern languages, she is exploring the visual language, creating one of her own that seeks to convey the very essence of the Rajasthani tradition. “I‘m essentially using an Indian vocabulary,” she explains. “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.”