Fazal Ali has definite ideas about the use of colour and tries to put them into practice in his paintings. His works have no abstract basis but more than half of the surfaces are clearly abstract impressionism.
At secondary school in Trinidad, Ali would encounter the great cubist painter LeRoy Clarke. Clarke’s ‘Lam’ like images painted on the scale of Diego Rivera’s murals proved to be an ennobling experience for the young student. Douens in the eyes of Ali was a repainting of the French Creole folklore characters already depicted in the works of Alfredo Codallo but now through the lens of an African mythology. A lifelong friendship between the two gentlemen ensued that is cherished to this day.
Ali, who was enrolled at the University of the West Indies, would continue his academic life there, but at the same time he expanded his visual arts skills by pursuing silk screen, lino block and woodblock printing, lithography and watercolour painting at workshops hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Art Society at the National Museum and Art Gallery. At the UWI he was influenced by Kenwyn Crichlow and Keith Cadette who enlarged his ideas about composition and colour theory. After he left Trinidad on a Commonwealth split site doctoral award to complete his PhD at Hughes Hall, Cambridge, Ali continued to paint. During this time he became fascinated by the depictions of the natural world based on internal geometric planes used by Paul Klee and the symbolism of the Beethoven Frieze by Gustav Klimt. It was there that he best understood Derek Walcott’s elevation of the fisherman not the woodcutter, the breadfruit not the oak and the impressionism of Camille Pissarro which Walcott continuously alludes to in his poetry.
Later Ali would meet Isaiah James Boodhoo as he painted canvases inspired by the metaphors in Walcott’s ‘Star Apple Kingdom.’ More recently he has enjoyed the rich surfaces of Richter’s abstract works, painted to the music of avant-garde composer John Cage. Ali’s haunt is the Pompidou, Paris.