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Deevia Patel: A Soul Alliance with Classical Indian Art

Updated: Apr 11

Written by Manvi Dixit.


Deevia Patel, 27 from Birmingham, recalls her earliest memories of childhood being consumed by art. A feverish desire to “draw anything and everything” she was a witness to. She belongs to a family that would generously share their wisdom about their motherland, frequently visit home and held pride in being South Asian despite settling in the UK. Within this, Patel found a special connection with cultural symbols. She reminisces about her mother teaching her how to do mehndi. 


“My mum used to do mehndi at weddings, she taught me at a young age – so I started kind of using those illustrations – fluidity – expressing my emotions.”


Pictures provided by Deevia Patel.


Lotuses, peacocks, tigers, brown women adorned from head-to-toe in gold jewellery with flowing saris and joyful expressions feature in the foreground of a green coated rainforest paradise. These details of Patel’s most recent artistic endeavours stem from all she observed around her in addition to pieces of her own imagination. Her work could easily serve as an illustrated version of Indian folklore and mythological scenes in the Bhagavat Gita. The ancient Hindu text and its teachings are another cited source for Patel’s creative process. 


“I picked up those elements as a child and now I always include them. It’s that sense of home. That’s what I want people to see when they look at my art.” 


Her overarching aim has been to make people feel immersed in her artwork, building off a desire to make the viewer feel like “they want to jump in” and soak up the “nostalgia” and the “magic.” 


Hinduism’s core belief system is another sect of her culture she feels an innate bond with, but this has not always been the case. This spiritual side of Patel’s has grown up alongside her and had its own evolution in her life which in turn revolutionised how she saw, painted, and collaborated with creativity, 


“I had so many questions but as a kid I just did what I was told.” As she got older, she felt she lost her faith and leaned to a more agnostic view of religion. Towards her late teens, she sought out after her own definition of God and spiritual commandments to live by through an English translation of the Bhagavad Gita. 


Through research, conversations with her grandparents who have lived with her family since their move to the UK and education; she found one religion can be practised in different ways. 


“My Ba (grandma) always says even if you don’t pray or see God the way I do, I see it through your artwork. Your way of appreciating God. I feel so connected to my work. I think it is that.” 


Patel mentions this journey has manifested in her art and she is so appreciative “that part still lives through my artwork.” It’s evident in her many artistic interpretations of Gods and Goddesses like the pairing of Krishna and Radha. 


The young artist’s paintings represent an India of ancient times. One we often do not get the privilege of seeing in museums and exhibitions due to everything that was lost or stolen within those 200 years of colonialism. Patel states, as a woman part of the diaspora, this is the India she seeks to shine a light on. Despite not having visited India since she was 13, in 2009, Patel explains her inspiration comes from festival displays and rituals like Navratri and Diwali. She says sometimes she uses her childhood drawings and adds bits and pieces to create something new but nostalgic at the same time. 


“For people in the UK, we’re surrounded by western culture, but we also have our own culture. So, I wanted to preserve those things in my paintings; an archive of traditional Indian symbolism and stories” that come to life with one glance. There’s an imminent sense of peace present in her landscapes between the figures smiling gracefully and the colourful land they reside in untouched by modernity. 


Her big yet tightknit Gujrati family, the traditions passed down from generation to generation and her own relationship with her culture continues to be the foundation of her artistic inspiration. 


“I see (India) through my mother’s eyes.” She says wistfully and adds that the strong female influence within her family has subconsciously played a role in her art. 


“I grew up a little bit angry with men. Me and my sisters; we’re all girls, everyone would ask or mention that ‘you need a brother.’ Like why would we need one? I love my sisters more than anything.” 


She explores her choice in drawing Indian women and placing Indian femininity at a forefront comes from seeing: “women’s beauty in our culture, the clothes, the jewellery – it’s something I want to paint – I want to show – that is what beauty means to me.”  


Utilising her culture for her art was not always seen as a legitimate option for Deevia Patel. She sighs, for the first time in the interview seems a little regretful and shares a few stories of the years before she found her niche in South Asian elements. She discusses how unfulfilled she felt painting dogs, natural landscapes – “standard artistic inspirations.” There was a shift with painting on commission for South Asian weddings and portraits of family and friends. Patel says this led her to push her individuality within creativity. 


Her art stands not only for her own connection to her culture but South Asian representation itself. Standout moments for her have become when younger artists have asked to use her work as case studies and all the feedback citing her as an inspiration. 


“This one girl sent me a Diwali scene and it was so beautiful. I thought I wish I could have done that as a kid!” It’s so great they’ve found their identity so young and then as they grow older, learn from it more.” 


It’s a full circle moment. Patel describes not even viewing South Asian art as a viable feat when she was in school due to how art was taught from a Western perspective.  


“It literally makes me cry. Because I used to be that person and now, I can’t believe they’re reaching out to me. “I am not qualified to inspire people but then I think, if I can inspire them whilst I am still on my journey that’s amazing.” 


Patel is grinning wide sharing these anecdotes with an unfinished piece full of waterfalls and vibrant greens sitting shining on a canvas in the background. 


“I’ve been told my work is too niche. And I need to broaden it to gain more of an audience. I am not going to change it to get sales. I have gained a community and so much love through doing what I love.” 



(TikTok handle: @deeviapatelart

IG handle: @deeviapatelart) 


 

This article was published in Volume 002, The New Generation. For more content check out our print magazine now!





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