Creative studio House of Gül on its liberating move towards spirituality and art
We catch up with House of Gül’s founder and creative director to discuss how he’s been merging the studio with his artistic practice and seeking out more meaningful projects.
- Elfie Thomas
- 3 May 2022
When we last spoke to Ali Godil, House of Gül was already making a name for itself as a studio with a creative conscience. Since then the studio has taken an assertive leap away from commercially-driven projects in favour of those which feel “authentic and meaningful”. Ali explains: “I just realised I didn’t want to become a blind vehicle for turbo-capitalism and always be motivated to create for commercial purposes, so I’ve developed my own artwork, voice and sensibilities.” An important part of this evolution for House of Gül has been a decisive move away from eurocentric design traditions. This has involved a conscious effort to work with artists and designers from all corners of the world, allowing the studio to push forward with ever more “diverse perspectives and solutions”, says Ali.
Perhaps the biggest transformation that has taken place since we last spoke is that House of Gül is now both a creative studio and Ali’s artistic practice. The creative tells us that he has recently been working on a series of artworks which are primarily inspired by “God and the beautiful craftsmanship of nature”. Woven into these graphic explorations are a myriad of references to architecture, textiles, poetry and history. Each piece results from a holistic creative practice which involves “meditating, praying and just walking within nature,” and are deeply “rooted in my spiritual experience”, says Ali. The results are as pleasing to the eye as they are to the mind – a collage-like stream of consciousness, pulled off with Ali’s gorgeously colourful and playful graphic style.
Turning back to some of the commissioned work that has recently been coming out of House of Gül, Ali highlights the importance of working with clients which align with the values of the studio. One of the clients to make the cut was Kismat Tea. The brand is committed to bringing authentic Indian spices to western audiences, navigating a “culturally appropriated” market filled with dismally “watered down” substitutes for real Indian tea: “they’re reclaiming the chai market with their grandma's recipes, bringing tradition into the modern age with their tea mixes”.
House of Gül did the brand identity, creative direction and design for Kismat. For this project, the studio aimed to “embody the sensual intoxication and feeling of royalty when drinking a warm cup with family”. The photography for the project perfectly summarise this ambience. The viewer is transported to an Eden-like garden where a woman raises a cup of tea to her lips ethereally in a glittering sari. This overall effect is brought down to earth by a good dose of kitschiness offered by the playful artificiality of the faux flowers and the giant set of curlers in the woman’s hair. The posters for the project complements this charming meander between authenticity and modernity with their inspiration harking from Pakistani truck art and old Bollywood movie posters.
Bollywood is a particularly rich source of inspiration for Ali and has fed into various other projects. A beautiful example of this is his film Americanistan. It is a personal piece about his parents who, after an arranged marriage in Pakistan, moved to America. “I highlighted their struggles with poverty, sacrifice, and cultural / emotional disconnect while striving to be a part of the American dream all with a 90s Bollywood inspired veneer”, says Ali. The film had its world premiere at Cine/Seen film festival in Portland, Oregon, for which House of Gül was asked to design the brand identity. “They asked me to come up with the direction and designs and we were inspired by camera test graphics, with the various colours, shades, shapes and patterns to create this mesmerising effect of being “seen” by the camera and seen by society,” says Ali.
It’s truly inspiring to see a creative studio which is navigating the tricky territory of working on commissions whilst maintaining a strong sense of authenticity. The future for House of Gul looks bright with its founder delving ever deeper into the ways he can incorporate his spiritual experience into his work. One project we’re particularly excited to see materialise is Bliss, House of Gül’s new editorial journal on art, creativity and consciousness. Ali’s has already begun gathering essays, artwork, poetry for the publication which will offer “a critical lens on the meaning and spirit behind what motivates us [to create] and what can help liberate us from our ego and constant pressures of commercial demands”.
House of Gül: Open Heart (Copyright © House of Gül, 2022)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.