Devki Modi

Devki Modi pursued her BFA at the Chelsea College of Art and Design in London. Upon graduation, she trained in traditional miniature (pichwai) painting from the Rajasthan region of India. Devki completed her MFA at the School of Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston in 2017 and now lives and work in Mumbai, India. She is an interdisciplinary Indian artist working in a global contemporary context exploring the mediums of painting, video, animation and installation. She was a recipient of the Dana Pond Award for displaying exemplary work in painting and has exhibited her work in Boston at the Barbara and Steven Grossman Gallery, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, the William Morris Hunt Memorial Library and Emerson College Media Arts Gallery. 

My practice is a juxtaposition of  traditional and contemporary art forms. I explore ideas such as the coexistence of past and present, fragmented identities, the blurred boundaries between art and craft and reimagine the art of miniature painting. In fact, I am trained in traditional Indian miniatures, specifically ‘pichwai’ paintings (cloth paintings hung behind Lord Krishna’s idol depicting his life story) and ‘sanji’ art (ritualistic patterns in temples created with hand-cut paper stencils). I layer these conventional methods with contemporary forms such as abstraction, time-based media, and installation. Through this amalgamation, I create ‘contemporary pichwais’ that recount a modern-day story similar to the mythological stories depicted by the traditional miniature styles. 

My work is inspired by architecture, stories of Krishna from The Bhagwat Purana, everyday objects, city life and my personal experiences. I use processes such as preparing waslis and cloth with flour-glue, extracting natural, colour pigments, transparency and collage. The flat miniature painting is created by closely placing layers of small dots and lines (pardaj) to create an illusion of a whole. This is similar to modern-day pointillism, abstraction and digital-printing. The contemporary screens are thus constructed by first decoding the image to its basic forms, then collaged or stitched together using the various techniques. Thus, different processes, line-drawing and the Path of Grace (Krishna’s bhakti through love and devotion) are important to my creative process.

My art process is also deeply informed by the exploration of my hybrid identity. My name change from Deeti to Devki marked my initial interest in this. My education abroad, pichwai training in Rajasthan, and my experiences as an urban woman artist all contribute to my creative journey. These experiences are ever-evolving in harmony-disharmony, forming new meanings each time. Through these changes, the self is continuously struggling to find balance but often feeling various emotions such as confusion or hopefulness simultaneously. Thus, in an intimate interplay between material and concept, the experience of this hybridity is similar to my process of building a contemporary pichwai. Pichwai painting helps me accept myself as a multifaceted-woman, appreciate patience, mindfulness, monotony and repetitive-methodology. 

Contemporary art lets me express myself with spontaneity. My autobiographical work strikes a conversation with the viewer who might be facing a similar struggle to find balance, within and outside, and provokes them questions surrounding one’s identity and surroundings. 

-Devki Modi