We catch up with London based artist, Hormazd Narielwalla

Fashion has always played an intricate role in Hormazd Narielwalla’s work. Working as a stylist and fashion writer in India before moving to the UK to study fashion, it was during his first visit to Savile Row where he discovered the fate of the tailoring patterns of the deceased. Leaving a profound effect upon him, this is where his own image making journey began.

To mark the release of his latest signed limited editions, we caught up with the London based artist to discuss the use of tailoring patterns in his work, including history, storytelling, icons and artistic inspiration.

Q: Hi Hormazd, your early studies in fashion design are ever present in your practice. How did your use of tailoring patterns begin?

A: I worked as a stylist and fashion writer back in India, before coming to the UK to study Fashion. It was on my masters course that I started thinking that I was more comfortable in image making. I was sent out to research menswear tailoring and came to Savile Row for the first time.

On my first ever conversation with a tailoring house, I learnt that when their customers pass away they would shred the patterns because they were drafted for a body that no longer exists. This left a profound effect on me, and I suddenly started seeing them in a very different way. I begged him to give me a set, and after a lot of convincing, he gave them to me. I made an artist’s book, ‘Dead Man’s Patterns’, which changed my life and thus began my journey as an artist.

‘Patterns are beautiful graphic parchments of paper or card, that have anthropological qualities that go beyond the garment, and carry with them not only technical information, but also philosophical stories.’

Hormazd Narielwalla

Details of Lost Gardens (Azure), Hormazd Narielwalla

Q: It’s fascinating how you use these intricate pieces of fashion history to explore themes of identity, memory, migration and diaspora. Could you tell us more about this?

A: Patterns are beautiful graphic parchments of paper or card, that have anthropological qualities that go beyond the garment, and carry with them not only technical information, but also philosophical stories. The first patterns to be made were recorded in the 15th Century, with some references to the Elizabethan age.

In a general sense they are not seen as valuable and museums rarely archive them unless they are antique or hold significant value - for instance a pattern made for a Royal individual or statesman. I’m able to connect with them, and tell stories of identity, memory and migration because clothing the body holds these stories.

Blossom Queen, Nature Queen, and Festival Queen hand finished limited editions by Hormazd Narielwalla

Q: Frida Kahlo and David Bowie star as protagonists in your intricately detailed limited edition series, ‘Queens’ and ‘Diamond Dancing Dolls’. Could you tell us about the role of icons in your work?

A: I am very interested in the way both these artists have used the power of dress, costume, make-up and hair to transform themselves into Living Art. What I mean is they did not adorn themselves for the sake of a performance, but every day was a performance for them. They transformed their identities into icons to be remembered for decades to come. I have also made work around Klaus Nomi, Coco Chanel, and recently made a series on Oscar Wilde.

Hormazd Narielwalla with ‘Diamond Dancing Dolls No. 1’

Q: Your two newly released signed limited edition prints with King & McGaw (Architectural Blocks No. 1 and Architectural Blocks No. 2) take inspiration from two renowned British sculptors. How do their immense sculptures inform your works?

A: They are flat drawings of clothing that cover the body, so there’s wonderful magic between the intersections of 2D and sculptural forms in a very lyrical way. I have often visited Barbara Hepworth’s garden and studio in St.Ives, and always stopped to admire a Henry Moore.

The sculptures are clearly heavy in materiality, but there’s something quite light in the way they look. Perhaps it’s the clever use of strings, or shapes within shapes. These two prints that have been released are a pair of paintings on canvas. I’m able to compose the image in a much different way than what I would with a collage, and I made a considered decision to highlight the lines and notations of the pattern, which look like string, and delicate lines that hold the composition similar to the way of the great modern sculptors I’m inspired by.

Hormazd Narielwalla signing ‘Architectural Blocks No. 1‘

Q: Are there any exciting projects that you’re working on at the moment?

A: I’m currently working on a series about the Universe. I found these incredibly intricate multi-layered patterns that only a rocket scientist can decode. They are unbelievably technical and look like maps of the Universe. These works go from the landscape of the body, and beyond into space. There’s some exciting news to come about these works.

Hormazd Narielwalla in the workshop with our expert framer, Doug

Q: This year marks the 10 year anniversary of your artistic career. So far your accolades include a print commission with the V&A in 2013, being shortlisted for the Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize 2020, and featuring in Royal Academy of Arts 2021 Summer Exhibition. What aspirations or milestones do you have for the next 10 years?

A: To just continue working, and making art that brings me joy. 

Architectural Blocks No. 1, Hormazd Narielwalla. Signed limited edition
Architectural Blocks No. 2, Hormazd Narielwalla. Signed Limited Edition

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