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The Pattern Farmer

20th Anniversary Poster Collaboration, Alexander Gorlizki and John Robshaw

In celebration of our 20th Anniversary collection, we collaborated with my friend and artist Alexander Gorlizki to create a one of a kind poster which will be included in the boxes of all purchases July through September.

I met Alex many moons ago at a run down palace hotel in Jaipur. Alex had come to study with the master Indian miniature painter Riyaz Uddin. Alex's work shown has since been shown around the world and his paintings are in many museum collections.

I thought it would be nice to interview him and show some of his work and his story. Enjoy!

Tell us about the collaboration for the poster.

The idea for the poster was to create a mythical scene that combines a cast of characters from my paintings alongside patterns and graphics from John’s prints. Block printing is such a fascinating technique. It’s great how John has adapted the tradition to a contemporary context, or combined it with other creative methods.It’s really a conversation between two distinct but related graphic skills, so it’s a form of collage.

Reclining and Relaxing, Gold and pigment on book-plate, 13.75" x 11.25”, c/o Berggruen Gallery

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was introduced to art and design through my mum. Since the early 1970’s, she would travel to Afghanistan and had a magical and quirky jewel-box of a shop in London. Growing up, I was surrounded by Central Asian embroideries, tribal jewelry, carpets and handicrafts, so that really influenced my own aesthetics. The journey itself also became a part of my work.

Never Say Never, Pigment and gold on paper, 14.75" x 10.75”, 2020, c/o artist

Tell us about miniature paintings. When did you become interested in them? Tell us about your work.

As a teenager I was really captivated by the exquisitely delicate forms and gem-like colours of Indian miniatures. They were portals into strange, whimsical worlds and stories I could lose myself in - and I still do!

Later on I became really interested in the various artisanal skills and traditions on my trips to Asia and wanted to find ways of incorporating some of these techniques into my own work. I commissioned shoe makers, sari embroiderers, sand casters, marble embroiderers amongst others to interpret my drawings and designs. In 1996 I started working with an exceptionally gifted miniaturist painter called Riyaz Uddin and we opened an atelier in Jaipur’s Old City. We’ve been working together ever since and the paintings now travel back and forth, often over a period of years.

The Grass is Always Greener, Pigment and gold on paper, 14.5" x 16.75”, 2018, c/o Berggruen Gallery

Any good travel stories?

Whenever I arrive in India I feel like I’ve landed in a parallel world that is both very peculiar but also familiar. I love staying with Riyaz’s wonderful family in the Old City as it feels like home but there’s always some crazy drama going on or a scheme being hatched. I’m continuously amazed by the latest shenanigans. Riyaz and I spend a lot of time giggling. It’s like living in a soap opera full of odd and intriguing characters. Balram, the milkman often arrives in the morning and seems to stay for hours gossiping, making mischief and updating us on the state of his water buffalos. He gets roped into giving head massages to whoever is in need.

Riyaz and I go for our early morning walks to the chai stall and he’ll recount stories of black magic rituals at the nearby holy tree, the ongoing conflict between the gold-beater community and the Dhobi (clothes) washers. He’ll wax lyrical about the best Biriani recipe, and the latest news on the squirrel hair brush maker or his relative who’s a medieval dentist and a cassette seller. And then we drift in and out of the workshops of numerous artisans and craftspeople in his neighborhood. I always feel so lucky to be able to inhabit that world and have such a fun and gracious guide.

A Place Like No Other, Pigment and gold on paper, 15.5" x 12.5”, 2020, $5500, c/o the artist

What other artists inspire you?

I sometimes describe myself as a pattern farmer so I’m always looking at ways other artists use pattern from Vuillard and Bonnard, to the Russian Constructivists and the Chicago Imagists. I also like artists who incorporate storytelling into their work such as Ilya and Emilie Kabakov. Having grown up with textiles I’m also endlessly inspired by the unnamed weavers of Lakai and Katawaz Kuba Textiles and Victorian Lace makers. It’s a good time to be a visual magpie!

Wo Ist Mein Pumpernickel?, Pigment and gold on paper, 2.25" x 14.25”, 2019, c/o the artist

Do you have a favorite painting or art piece?

It changes week to week!

Land of Plenty, Pigment and gold on paper, 14.45" x 11.25”, 2018, c/o Berggruen Gallery


To follow Alexander Gorlizki on Instagram: @alexandergorlizki