The making of Hormazd Narielwalla’s Frida Kahlo-inspired ‘Queen’ prints

Though London artist Hormazd Narielwalla works across several artistic disciplines – including printmaking, sculpture and artist’s books – he is best known for his intricate paper collages.

His new limited edition prints, which are made from vintage and bespoke tailoring patterns, are inspired by his long-time muse, the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.

Q: Hi Hormazd, Frida Kahlo has been a muse of yours for a while now, can you tell us more about what makes her such an enduring, international icon?

A: Well it started with watching the film with Salma Hayek as the lead role, and I was star gazed to see a woman with a monobrow being depicted in a biopic. I started embracing my own monobrow for which I was relentlessly teased in school.

I also had a similar story, but not as violent as her (she was involved in a serious bus accident in Mexico city in 1925), where I slipped my disc and had back injuries when I was 16. The time spent in my bed allowed me to start drawing and sketching.

So, my fascination with Frida did not first centre around her practice. It was only when I came to the UK to study fashion that I happened to see the retrospective at Tate and was completely mesmerised by the genius that is Frida Kahlo, and based one of my final collections on the artist.

It’s her personal story that I admire, and her strong ability to transform that attracts me to her as a person and an artist.

Q: Collage is integral to your artistic practice, can you tell us more about the hand-cut elements in these new editions?

A: I make work out of patterns, which are cut out templates to make clothing for the body. These are accompanied by decorative motifs from various references including India and Japan.

They are also highly stylised with bows, and rosettes. We thought we could add a nice edition by hand placing gold bows in various parts of the editions.

‘In my renditions of Frida I have placed birds. As a faithful follower, I become the bird.’

Hormazd Narielwalla

Detail of hand-applied gold bow and accompanying paint brush
Detail of stylised shoes and bright blue bows

Q: You use a lot of flora and fauna motifs, do they hold any symbolic significance?

A: Frida often depicted her lovers in the form of animals like they were faithful domesticated subjects. In my renditions of the artist I have placed birds to reference that, the only suggestion is, as a faithful follower I become the bird. I’m happy to be placed that way within the artworks to signify my own loyalty towards the artists.

Q: It’s lovely to see evidence of tailoring notes in pencil. Can you tell us more about the significance of the profession and how it impacts your artistic practice?

A: Cutters who draft the paper patterns record notes, measurements and any other information relevant to making a suit for their customers.

It’s a beautiful conversation that is recorded over years and all those nuances have become integral part of my work. I do not remove any of the scribbles or deface the pattern in any way. In fact, I embrace it and I explore the notions of the ‘found material’. 

Q: Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind some of the garments your Fridas are wearing?

A: They are all made up from my imagination, and the process starts by placing patterns in a way that they resemble the body or garments.

I then meticulously cut motifs that adorn the collage. My goal is to create a unique collage that reflects the cultural aspects of Frida Kahlo so when people see the works they know they haven’t seen it, but it embodies everything that Frida was about. They are playful and serious at the same time.

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