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Rachana Devidayal

ARTISTS STATEMENT

I collect all kinds of paper working almost exclusively in that medium. I manipulate it in many different ways: sometimes it is painted, torn, glued, or distressed. It is a surface which I treat as second skin. The range could be anything from a digital printout, to starting from pulp using a mould and deckle. And in all of this, watercolour is my most favoured medium – one that I actively avoided as an art student in the early nineties, but wholeheartedly embraced when I began to flow again, with my passion of painting three years ago.
My paintings often have structure which is derived from a formal training in graphic design with its grids and formalities, along with an utterly free-spirited artist who permits the occasional breaking of boundaries and lets in a splash of colour. I pick and choose my style, medium and approach that best fits the telling of a certain narrative. There is no preconceived formula. As a graphic designer my role has always been to tell a story – to communicate a specific message, by directing the reader to move around the layout in the way I would want them to. My offering as an artist is to hold up a mirror to the viewer, and provide them with a palpable experience through the artwork. The purpose of my work is to stir something in me first, and then allow something to be awakened in others. And to be okay if it isn’t the same thing.

PROPOSED RESEARCH PROJECT

I am currently immersed in a project which involves a study and depiction of the sacred aspect of the Narmada River which flows in central India. It is the oldest river, said to have been formed out of a drop of perspiration whilst Lord Shiva was deep in meditation. The legends and stories related to Narmada, are plentiful and the life and activities around it are steeped in tradition. Each of the works done so far is borne out of several journeys, conversations with people, and extensive research and photography that I have done in the region where it flows. A painting may depict narratives such as a daily ritual, or a particular flower that was beloved to the river, or the delicate force of the water to break past the man-made dams that were constructed to harness its flow. I am hoping to build a body of work that will attract an alliance with a gallery and ultimately lead to an exhibition.

Morning Ritual (2022)

The Lingarchan Puja: a daily sacred ritual performed to worship Lord Shiva in the town of Maheshwar, India. It was started by queen Ahilyabai in 1766. Each mound of clay, topped with a single grain of rice represents a citizen of the town. Blessed by a local priest, the board is floated on the sacred Narmada river, to grant prosperity to every inhabitant in the town. The painting aims to consecrate this ceremony.


•Collage: acrylic on handmade paper
•28.5 x 24.25 in

Gulbakavali (2023)

A study of a spray of Gulbakavali (Ginger Lily) in the Narmada river. Narmada requested her best friend, this white flower to always show up wherever she flowed. This sight of water with flowers, predominates at the rivers’ source in a place called Amarkantak, when Narmada is said to have played as a young girl before she flowed down to the plains.


• Pencil, oil pastel, watercolour, and ink on handmade paper
• 29 x 20 in

Seeping Through The Cracks (2023)

There was much controversy when the Narmada river got harnessed by 2 major dams in the nineties. Experts from all fields presented their opinions on this project. A holy man mentioned that the sacred river does not ‘like’ to be contained and will find a way out. Another, an engineer remarked how cracks are already appearing in places as the dam is being built.
This painting depicts the crack, flanked on either side, by the rivers’ beloved flower, Gulbakavali (Ginger Lily).


• Collage: Acrylic + watercolour on handmade papers.
• 25 x 32 in

Gateway to Heaven (2023)

There is a section of the Narmada river that has been described as a mini Niagara Falls. People gather to worship, as well as to take selfies. In their enthusiasm, a few slip off the rocks and fall into the river. The current moves the bodies to a particular swampy area which has been named Svarg Dwaar (Gateway to Heaven). Remnants such as fragments of a sari or a few broken bangles may be all that is left behind as human trace.


• Collage: cloth + watercolour on handmade paper
• 25 x 32 in

Evening Ritual (2022)

All across the river which stretches a distance of 1,312 km, diyas (oil lamps) are floated at the waters’ edge at dusk. This is a daily evening ritual. Prayers are offered to Lord Shiva (bottom left detail) and diyas may be placed in the water by going slightly afield in a boat (centre, right detail)


• Watercolour, pencil, collage
• 35 x 26 in

Flames and Prayer (2024)

This large concentric cone of fire is used as part of the daily evening worship in a town called Mandla. It is the part of the Narmada where the narrow water body becomes a large, full-bodied river.


• Acrylic
• 30 x 40 in

Colourful Worship (2024)

This is the nabhi (navel) or exact mid-point of the Narmada river, in a town called Nemawar.
Worship takes place on every pavement and at every street corner.
This colourful pair of brightly clothed women were offering prayers to a deity carved in stone.
The zigzag fabric immediately below them is intended to give a sense of water/wetness which then goes on to suggest plant life at the rivers’ edge.


• Photograph + collage, using fabric
• 34 x 29 in

Tilwara Ghat

This part of the river on the outskirts of Jabalpur is famous for these brightly decorated boats which ferry devotees across to the opposite shore. The lighted diya (oil lamp) is floated every
evening, and keeping in mind that the river always likes to have her favourite flower,
Gulbakavali (Ginger Lily) next to her, I have added those in plenty.


• Photograph + collage using handmade paper
• 30 x 40 in

Sacred Objects (2024)

These copper containers are an essential accessory to all devotees of the
Narmada river. Pilgrims who undertake the parikrama (circumambulation) of the river by foot, must hold one of these vessels, a bamboo stick and be carrying
the holy water whilst on their journey.


• Photograph + watercolour
• 22.5 x 30 in

The River Sutra (2022)

This painting was inspired from a passage I read in the book The River Sutra by Gita Mehta.
It is a work of fiction set on the banks of the Narmada river.
‘In the silence of the ebbing night I sometimes think I can hear the river’s heartbeat pulsing
under the green before she reveals herself at last…’


• Charcoal + water
• 10 x 7 in