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Olivia Fraser (b. 1965, London) is a Delhi-based artist known for paintings incorporating intricate patterns, ancient iconography, and spiritual and philosophical themes. Deeply attuned to the techniques and vocabulary of Indian miniature painting, Fraser combines traditional mediums and techniques with forms and ideas inspired by modern Western art, including the archetypal shapes, colors and rhythms in the works of Kazimir Malevich and the Suprematists, as well as in the Op Art of Bridget Riley and Sol LeWitt.


Raised in the Scottish Highlands, Fraser completed a master’s degree in modern languages from the University of Oxford. She spent a year at Wimbledon College of Arts in London before relocating to India in 1989. On encountering great works of Indian miniature painting in the National Museum in New Delhi, she was struck by the two-dimensionality of form, gemlike colors and elaborately decorated and burnished surfaces. In 2005, she joined a gurukul, a traditional miniature-painting studio in Jaipur and then another in New Delhi, where she studied under masters of the form. She follows in the footsteps of her ancestor James Baillie Fraser, the Scottish-born artist who famously painted India, its monuments and landscape in the early 1800s. 


Fraser sources many of her materials in India, including indigo, malachite, lapis lazuli, cinnabar and chalk from cliffs in Jaipur, which she grinds by hand to make pigments and applies to handmade paper. The alchemy of the process, with its deliberate slowness and mindfulness and use of local materials, provides further inspiration for Fraser, who described the learning process as similar to learning a language. She teaches an annual miniature-painting course in Jaipur.


Fraser’s discovery of nineteenth-century Jodhpuri Man Singh-period imagery, produced by the Nath yogis, inspired her to incorporate iconographic landscape elements in her work to symbolize a Tantric inner vision. Her work is an extension of her yogic meditative practice and the ways in which meditation involves visualizations of nature, particularly the sahasrara or thousand-petaled lotus, which serves as a visual aid in reaching enlightenment. “I take the vocabulary of landscape—trees, flowers, rivers, mountains and sky—and I deconstruct and reduce them to their essence.”


Fraser’s work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions around the world, including the Royal Drawing School, London; Museum of Sacred Art, Brussels; The Arts House, Singapore; China Art Museum, Shanghai; Government Museum and Art Gallery, Chandigarh; National Academy of Art, British Council and Lalit Kala Akademi, Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi; City Palace, Jaipur; Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, India; and Kathmandu Contemporary Arts Centre, Nepal. In 2015, her work was exhibited in Frontiers Reimagined at the 56th Venice Biennale. Her work is in public and private collections internationally, including the Museum of Sacred Art, Brussels, and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi. 


In 2019, Fraser released the book A Journey Within. She also wrote and illustrated the children’s book Handmade in India to promote literacy. Her art has been used on the cover of A Hundred Measures of Time: Tiruviruttam; Sacred Plants of India by Nanditha Krishna and M. Amirthalingam; The Secret Garland: Andal’s Tiruppavai and Nacciyar Tirumoli translated by Archana Venkatesan; and A God at the Door by Tishani Doshi. She has also illustrated books for William Dalrymple, her husband, notably City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi.


Olivia Fraser lives and works between New Delhi and London.

Times of India
Times of India
Olivia Fraser’s Spiritual Universe in Singapore May 30, 2024

Melding formal traditions of Indian miniature painting with repetitive meditative motifs, Olivia has created a distinct visual language that brings to life intangible spiritual concepts. 

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