The Delhi Art Gallery will host a major retrospective of Indian artist Madhvi Parekh, spanning more than five decades of the artist’s practice and bringing together over 65 of her works for the first time.
The Curious Seeker” opens on Sept. 13, and marks the debut of the artist’s work in the United States and follows the exhibition’s presentation at DAG’s spaces in Delhi and Mumbai. In conjunction with the exhibition and throughout its run, DAG will present a robust series of public talks, performances, and other educational and public programming, to be announced in the coming weeks.
“Madhvi Parekh has often been narrowly defined within the tradition of folk art in India, yet her practice defies categorization—reflecting her own distinct language, as well as wide-ranging influences that deserve further exploration,” said Kishore Singh, curator of the exhibition and head of Exhibitions and Publications at DAG. “Bringing together works from every decade of her practice, this retrospective finally places Parekh squarely within the pantheon of Indian modernism.”
Parekh is recognized by scholars as one of the most significant living Indian artists, who has established her own oeuvre and language in contrast to the artistic conventions of her time. With no formal education in art, her work initially evolved from childhood memories, popular folk stories, legends of her village, and the forms of painting that were part of her family’s everyday rituals, such as the traditional floor designs of rangoli.
Inspired by her artist-husband Manu Parekh and artists such as Paul Klee and Joan Miró, Parekh began painting in 1964. Her paintings are unplanned, unfolding like a story where she adapts each work to the scale it demands and developing from a single point into vast narratives.
Apart from folk motifs, legends, and figures, Parekh also uses imaginary characters in figurative and abstracted orientations in her compositions, demonstrating her use of rhythm and repetition. In most of her works, she utilizes the familiar settings and motifs of Kalamkari, a traditional hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, and Pichwai, devotional pictures on cloth or paper, in which she enshrines the main character of the composition in the center and fills the minor or secondary ones in the borders.
Spanning five decades, “The Curious Seeker” offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore Parekh’s evolution as an artist, from her roots in folk tradition, to the myriad ways that she diverged from conventions to create her own distinctive style. The exhibition features iconic works by the artist that together represent every phase of her illustrious career, including rare drawings and paintings from the 1960s, influenced by the abstraction of Paul Klee, and significant examples of works that feature recurring themes and subjects across her practice, including the countryside of India, religious imagery, and anthropomorphic forms.
Highlights of the exhibition include:
“Running Figure,” 1972; “Flying Figure, “1974: An example of Parekh’s early works which demonstrate the influence of Klee and Miró with stunted, stubbed lines and dots that create individual patterns, and simultaneously combine into a complete narrative.
“Fantasy Under Sea,”1979; “Head B, “1976; “Sea God, “1971: These three works are prime examples of the artist’s works of the seventies, featuring bulbous, amorphous, changeable forms and shapes, and ballooning creatures with human attributes. They come together to represent joyous universes of living beings.
“Playing with Animals,” 1989: “Playing with Animals” demonstrates the influence of the artist’s personal memories and children in her practice. The work explores her happy childhood spent in the fields of her village as part of the rhythm of life, encompassing nature and seasons, birds and beasts, and her friends.
“Untitled” (Durga II), 2006: This is part of a series in which the artist humanizes the goddess with the familiar folklore that surrounds her reflected playfully even as she creates a world of demons and the mythology of struggle between good and evil in a manner that points to its everyday presence in our lives
“World of Magician, “2004: “World of Magician” reveals Parekh’s recurring interest in dividing and compartmentalizing her works in visually distinct chapters that come together to form larger narratives.
“The Last Supper”, 2011: Considered one of Parekh’s most significant works to date, the artist’s recreation of Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper responds to the masterpiece by bringing together Christian genres of art with visual strategies from a range of different eras and religious cultures.