Stretched canvases are nowhere to be found in Patric Rozario’s art studio. Nestled in the ground floor of a quaint structure in the heart of old Doha, the rooms instead are awash with large aluminium composite panels, painted on with eye-popping flourish, studded with gems and pearls.
The ebullient Malaysian artist prefers to call these wall-conquering, colour-cascading creations “artistic metal panels”. Conceived to elevate interiors or keep company to living the good life, Rozario’s bespoke work has the uncanny ability to intensify both the spatial and the visual atmosphere of a place. By hand-painting on metal panels and then sprinkling the choicest of pearls, semi-precious gems, and Swarovski crystals, before sealing it all in with a coat of Epoxy Resin, he scripts a confluence of mediums, shades and ideas, that triggers a rush of emotions and interpretations.
Rozario makes no bones about impressing you with visual splendour, be it by infusing the right pearl or stone along painted swirls to summon the stars and the celestial realm or by dunking your head into a fluorescent world of cosmic corals and reefs. Little wonder then that two shelves of a room are stacked with jars of expensive stones – Red Carnelian, Crystal chips, Green chips, Amethyst chips, Lapis Lazuli, Citrine chips, Jasper, Mock agate, Black agate, Emerald, Swarovski crystals, and American diamonds, and pearls sourced from the Philippines and India, to name a few.
Some of his series might give some sense of his repertoire – Meandering Rivers (the twists and turns of a flowing river as metaphor for life), Metallic (recreating Earth’s topography as viewed from a satellite), Agate (an ode to the delectably striped gemstone), Spiral (the universal mesmerising appeal of a pattern that’s found extensively in nature), and Galaxy (artistic retelling of the mysteries and magic of outer space). Recently, Rozario was coveted with the title of Master Craftsman, and his firm, Aesthetic Arts Design, is now member of the prestigious The Guild Of Master Craftsmen of the UK. Community caught up with the artist-craftsman, who prides in his creation enough to fashion it as ‘Own a Rozario’, for a long chat:
Has there been an artist in you right from your early years?
Definitely. I grew up in Sabah, a Malaysian state in the northern part of the island of Borneo that even today is as green as Amazon. So growing up, all I saw was nature. In school, I would be beaten up for scribbling on walls. Since supplies were hard to get – a 12-seater aeroplane arriving once in two months was our only connection to the outside world – my dad would bind notebooks out of used office stationary and bring it to me for school work. But in a couple of hours, I would finish drawing through the whole book and then hide it. My dad would scold me and whack me for my ‘stupid doodles’. Once, when I was five, he saw me scribbling and demanded that I show him what I was up to. Terrified, I reluctantly offered him my drawings. He asked – Did you draw that? What did you look at and draw? Nothing, I said. He asked me to do it again. I drew the exact same thing. My father cried that day. He felt awful for not noticing my talent and hugged me. That was my family’s discovery of my art.
You took your time to pursue your artistic side. Why?
After pre-degree, I felt like I needed to travel the world. So I joined the Merchant Navy, became an officer, joined Singapore’s national shipping service and sailed the world for eight years. That brought me a revelation. As I saw the world, I realised that everything was designed. I would see a beautiful car and realise that it’s a work of art by the virtue of industrial design.
I began seeing design and art in everything and everywhere. Travelling, especially to the US and Europe, baffled my senses as I was thrown open to so many ideas and possibilities. It then struck me that this discovering of the big picture was meant to be. I decided that I won’t be a sea dog anymore. After I got married and took my wife on a world tour, I quit Merchant Navy and joined an advertising agency in Malaysia.
This venture familiarised me into application of art. Soon enough, I opened my own design agency Graphic Traffic. I could now also paint as my staff would handle the business. In 2000, I began selling my art. In the following four years, I hit my creative peak, as I experimented with painting by thread and exploring facets of art that would introduce an A-Ha! element to it. I like to surprise the viewer.
Why did you decide to come to Qatar?
Sometime in 2004, I found myself struggling. There was no money in my pocket despite working day and night. I needed a break as I sensed that I was burning out. I bought a one-way ticket to Qatar and found a job at The Pearl-Qatar. There, I imbibed a great deal, chief among which was about the history and the spirit of the pearl. Meanwhile, I continued to paint, which helped me bring more art and ideas into my work. When the legendary Spanish tenor-conductor Placido Domingo came down to Doha, I made and gifted him a huge portrait, which now hangs in his home in New York. That was my first taste of stardom and it made for big news in Qatar back then. It gave me the impetus to pursue my art seriously. I was painting very vigorously then and soon, I began exhibiting my work across Doha. Around this time, I was sharpening my focus on fusing pearls into paintings. By a happy coincidence, they had come together.
One day, I was painting on a big canvas when a delivery guy came. I always keep a pearl in my wallet and when I opened it to give him money, the pearl fell down on the painting. Upset, I plucked the pearl using toothpicks and returned to painting. Then it struck me – the pearl looked nice, it had acquired some colour from the acrylic paint, and it reminded me of the marbles we used to play as kids.
So I threw a few pearls on the canvas as a test and I loved what I saw. Some mistakes, only if you pay attention, will lead you into discovering a new way. That happy mistake led me to put pearls in my paintings. As difficult as it was to pick the right pearl, I would pour them in a glass plate so that I could easily take a good look at them. As I fiddled with them with my paint-stained hands, I realised that the coloured pearls and plate looked great. So I moved on to using plates as a canvas and embedded them, too, with pearls, thereby giving rise to another series ‘Pearlappetite’.
Did that lead you to your current fascination – the metal panels?
Yes. I realised I wanted a big space. Canvas seemed feeble. I discovered the aluminium composite panel. It’s strong, you can cut it, and unlike canvas, I can have a six-metre-long work that will remain steady. A canvas tends to get wobbly, making the paint crack and therefore destabilising the pearls. Finally, a coat of epoxy acts as a seal and also lends a transparent effect.
Is there a method to arrange the pearls in a certain pattern, or to turn out the art work the way you envision?
For some works, I have ideas about what I would do. But for most, this decision happens on the spot. I use pearls, crystals and gems to accentuate or reflect or diminish the effect of colours. As we know, colours play a big role in our lives and I’d like to believe they can heal us.
The colours that I bring to you conjure emotions and shape moods. With the coat of fade-resistant epoxy, they will stay intact for 30-35 years at least. And then, there is a force above us all. The day you surrender yourself, magic happens.
So before I start a piece, I surrender and say – lead me on. In my studio, magic happens every day. In the circle of passion, process and profit, the most important element is purpose. Why am I doing what I am doing? Dharma is about work – do what you have to do. The greatest sin, I believe, is in not making use of your talent; to die without even having explored yourself. Painting, to me, is a process of discovery. And this journey is endless.
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