Artist Desmond Lazaro first came to India in 1990 to study art in Baroda. From thereon started his fascination with the miniature paintings of Rajasthan, and he trained under late master painter Bannu Ved Pal Sharma. Since then Lazaro has been reinterpreting the style in his own unique way. In the past several years, he has been investigating early explorers, “inspired by Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Maps which takes a non-hierarchical approach to geography where there is no up or down, no North or South,” reads the artist's note.
Time and the cosmos have made a regular appearance in his recent works, in which he uses natural pigments, handmade paper or cloth. Take, for instance, Mapping The Heavens, which draws his inspiration from travels to Dunhuang in western China, particularly to the Margao Buddhist cave where the oldest star map was discovered in 1906. As we ask him for a virtual walk through his current workspace in Australia, he tells us about his new work informed by the realisations that covid-19 has brought with it. Edited excerpts:
Could you describe your current studio to us and where it is located?
It is in an old (converted) Butter Factory, Country Victoria, just outside Melbourne, Australia. It’s a massive building and my studio is nestled within. With its brick walls and high ceilings, it looks like an old barn from a 1950’s Western. We even have a possum living in the rafters!
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Has it always been this way or has it evolved over time?
I have only been here three years. My regular studio is in Pondicherry, which I built myself. It’s a dream space.
Has the pandemic made you rethink or reimagine your relationship with your studio space? Has that affected the way you create works?
Yes, very much so, as I have not been able to return to the Pondicherry studio since February 2019. Hopefully that will change in the coming months, ahead of my solo exhibition at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, which opens in January 2022. However, the Kyneton Studio in Australia, with its rural charm, has become home now. It is a wee bit cold during the winter months, but the light is fantastic.
Could you define your daily relationship with this space?
It’s simply my place of work. I start at 9 am and finish around 6 pm, and after that it's time for family duties. Outside of that, my routine is flexible, depending the project.
Tell us about some of the eureka moments you have had and major works that you have done from here.
The recent Cosmos series, which will be shown at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, was conceived here. It wasn’t really a eureka moment, but more of a slow realisation that covid-19 was real. And like most people globally, I was forced to consider this as an existential question: what is our relationship to the heavens, and how does that define us as humans amidst a pandemic?
If you were to trade this place for any other, what would it be like?
I would love to be able to work again in the Pondicherry studio, hopefully sooner than later.