Tragically no longer with us, critically-acclaimed contemporary abstract artist, Govinder Nazran’s creative legacy will live with us and remain long in the conscience and urban living space reality as his magnificent modern abstract art continues to engage, excite and inspire artists and would-be artists near and far. Born in Birmingham, England in 1964 if there’s one recurrent and defining element which we would say characterized Nazran’s signature works, then it would of course have to be animals. And when we say animals, chances are it would be cats and possibly elephants which spring to mind first and foremost. Fantastically abstract, colour-seductive, graphically seismic creations which were beautifully weighted and balanced on the canvas on which they were presented, or as the 3D realisation that Nazran also ventured into as an acknowledged sculpture artist too.
It all began for Nazran in Bradford, where he was schooled in art (or rather, Graphic Design as the case was) as further education between 1980 – 1983, before embarking on a B/TEC HND in Graphic Design at Lincoln Art College thereafter. With his higher education successfully behind him, Nazran headed for the bright lights of London, where he made it his business to approach all of the major publishers located in the UK’s capital city with his portfolio, speculatively looking for the opportunity to impress. With the undoubted talent at his disposal, it didn’t take Nazran long to be snapped up so to speak, and he went on to work as a children’s books illustrator for the next six months. In his capacity as a freelance illustrator, Nazran went where the work took him, with his next stop being Cambridge.
Eventually his creative odyssey saw him head back to the West Yorkshire where he studied and to Saltaire where he put down his roots and moreover where he assumed the role of designer for a greetings card company, which as you might expect necessitated the full gamut of product design and development. Not one to rest on his artistic laurels, Nazran followed his spell as a greetings card designer by securing his next professional and commercial position, that of a photographic art director. This position required global travel as part of its broad remit, and Nazran soon found himself responsible for directing fashion shoots across the world. He remained in this role until 1993, when he arrived at the conclusion that this hectic, jet-setting lifestyle wasn’t really for him, along with hankering after his far more conservative, reflective life back in West Yorkshire. Jacking in the art direction gig, Nazran quickly settled back into his old life in Saltaire, and spent the next five years employed in the capacity as a freelance illustrator once more, working predominantly on card designs again under the umbrella of some of the greetings card industry’s bigger hitters.
In 1999 Nazran made the massive leap of faith required to let go of the secure and regular income safety net of employment and instead look to going it alone as a professional fine artist. With this in mind – and obviously after doing his homework first – Nazran approached one of the UK’s leading art publishers, Washington Green, complete with his portfolio of work. Suitably impressed with what they witnessed, they clinched a working relationship then and there, with neither party ever looking back; as since coming under Washington Green’s fine art wing, Nazran enjoyed seeing in excess of 40 of his unique, individual designs being published and reproduced on a mass market scale, and latterly (before his sad and premature passing) worked together on the developing of his art into sculptures.
A naturally rather introvert character according to those who knew him best, Nazran communicated himself, his ideas and unswerving creativity best through his work, with the artist admitting that he found it difficult to articulate himself and his thoughts verbally. Describing himself as something of a shy person he went on record at the time as saying; “When I’m put on the spot and asked to explain my work, I usually end up a gibbering wreck, cursing myself later for my lack of verbal dexterity. My true personality reveals itself through my paintings”. And let’s face facts; if your visual skillset and ability to convey your innermost is as good as it evidently was in Nazran’s case, who really needs a collection of pretentious verbs, nouns and adjectives to say what the rest of us can clearly see before us.
In terms of just what his artwork typically say to the viewer, Nazran would confirm that for the most part they were about the contrast and juxtaposition between good and evil; innocence and malevolence. Citing his own childhood memories, he recalls the world as being this wonderfully happy and positive place, and as a youngster how he loved to learn about other people and races in countries far and wide, and how one day he hoped to visit them all. Unfortunately, as with a lot of our youthful recollections, they were mostly rose tinted, and it wasn’t far into his adolescence that he soon realised that things weren’t quite as sunny as he’d first envisaged them, and that ultimately many of the people he once dreamed of meeting are perpetually locked in a bitter hatred of each other, divided by race or religion. Explaining his thoughts on this subject a little further, Nazran once said; “The world is a place where the innocent pay the heaviest price. It affects me deeply. It’s like living in the garden of Good and Evil. I can’t ignore it, so I depict it in the form of these innocent pictures”, going on to add; “I leave it to the individual to look at my paintings and choose what they would like to see, innocence or malevolence – the ‘good’ or the ‘evil’!”
But Nazran was the eternal optimist despite these concerns and discovery of truths that came along with his formative years, and insisted that optimism is one of the most powerful gifts we possess. Nazran would tell people that whenever he contemplates these underlying and inherent thoughts, his mind strays to the Sting record, ‘Fields of Gold’, and asked us to listen to the lyrics which he fervently believed best summed up the point he was attempting to make.
Elaborating still further, Nazran offered this theory with direct reference to his historic painting style and design language, suggesting that the two opposing juxtapositions essentially explain many of his compositions. Asking us to look at the examples which have malevolent titles – and centre around evil cats – these to Nazran’s mind represent evil. Yet on first glance, and to many casual observers, they’d exude a certain degree of illustrative optimism. Whilst the wide-eyed cats and dogs always look petrified and are visual manifestations of the innocent. Nazran was happy so long as viewers chose to see these paintings in one way or another; to look upon love and happiness or death and the Devil; as long as they detracted something from each piece and connected with it on some level.
Govinder Nazran (1964 – 2008)
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