Skip to main content
Painting (MA)

Alyina Zaidi

Alyina (b 1995) is a London based artist from New Delhi and Srinagar. She paints scenes of a fictional, fantasy world she has created. Her paintings reflect her cross cultural background — she has lived in India, the USA, and now is planted in the UK. 

She loves Kota, Uniara, Mughal, and Safavid miniatures and looks to them for inspiration almost every day. The colours in her paintings are mostly influenced by colours found in these miniatures, by memories, and by the environments around her.

She is also a vivid dreamer and her dreams will often creep into her paintings. 

(Image shown above is a detail of And then they decided on three eggs, twelve chillies, and one fish)

Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Painting (MA)

I went back home to Delhi this winter and found myself surrounded by magical thinking. People were cursing one another or they were trying to counteract being cursed. There was a fear of the power of magic. The rituals in place to counteract curses or even ward off the evil eye seemed so bizarrely specific. No one could tell you the reason why the rituals had to be done a certain way. They just knew that was what was done. 

I knew I needed a bit of magic in my life, especially during this pandemic. So I took to creating a fantasy world where magic existed and tried to uncover certain mysteries through my paintings. In one painting, I wanted to unearth why certain rituals were the way they were in this world I created. Other paintings depict the actual ritual taking place. There’s a ritual where the moon is circumcised by angels. I think that’s a sort of celestial purifying ritual. There’s a ceremony where angels lower eggs to the ground. I think that’s about bringing new life to this earth. I haven’t painted any sinister rituals yet — no curses! 

I realised that I already had my own rituals when making a painting. For example, I have to use one particular brush to render my fleshy rocks otherwise I have an inexplicable fear they might not come out right. I decided that all my rituals could, in a way, render my paintings magical — talismans of a sort.

(Image shown is a detail of Kala pani and the blasted egg ceremony)

And then they decided on three eggs, twelve chillies, and one fish — Acrylic on wood, 40.64 x 50.8 cm
Conference of the angels — Acrylic on canvas, 30.48 x 30.48 cm
Moon circumcision — Acrylic on canvas, 30.48 x 30.48 cm
Kala pani and the blasted egg ceremony — Acrylic on canvas, 110 x 40 cm

These are works I have painted during my last term at RCA.

The paintings shown are based on stories I have made up about rituals being performed. 

Kala pani and the blasted egg ceremony is a ceremony where angels have to safely lower eggs to the ground, trying to avoid the snakes and dark water, as a way to bring new life to this earth. One of the angels is obviously quite clumsy or new to the job so has dropped and cracked an egg. 

And then they decided on three eggs, twelve chillies, and one fish isn’t a ritual but rather is a sort of conference where the angels are deciding on how many eggs need to be passed over your body to cleanse it, how many chillies need to be burned to ward off the evil eye, and how many rare fish need to be spotted for good luck.  

And so on and so on. 

The Dark Valley - Labyrinth — Acrylic on wood, 40.64 x 50.8 cm
The Dark Valley - The Cave — Acrylic on wood, 50.8 x 40.64 cm
The snakes beneath us — Acrylic on wood, 50.8 x 40.64 cm
The Dark Valley - Alignment — Acrylic on canvas, 122 x 91.4 cm
Trees only travel on conveyor belts — Acrylic on wood, 40.64 x 50.8 cm

Before the pandemic started, dreams had pretty much taken over my life. I had been having the strangest dreams. They were very vivid and felt almost real. They were so hard to forget and followed me around during the day. 

I had a number of dreams involving snakes including one of a dancing snake and one where a variety of snakes were writhing around in the topsoil. So, of course, I had to add snakes to my paintings. 

The snake dreams morphed into recurring dreams of dark voids during the pandemic. These started featuring in my paintings in the form of dark lakes or cave-like structures.