Art Director Anyaa Dev talks about expressing creativity through her artwork
Anyaa Dev was born and raised in New Delhi and, after studying at Central Saint Martins in London, she made the move to Amsterdam where she is now an Art Director here at W+K. Her true love lies in making work that makes people feel something, and influences the way people see the world in some small way. In her spare time she makes art for magazines, events, herself, other people and also exhibitions like ‘The Intersection’, our group show in celebration of International Women’s Day 2020. Here she talks us through her processes, what she’s inspired by as an artist and what stimulates her creativity.
What and/or who inspires you in your artwork?
My feelings and emotions, beautiful and inspiring people. Telling stories of my people and myself.
Where does your painting style come from?
Although my work looks nothing like that of Amrita Shergills or Anjolie Ela Menons – I have grown up respecting their work. Their boldness and strength to be unapologetically strong Indian women has always inspired me to make art that I feel is brave.
At times your work portrays references from other artists and fashion brands such as Margiela, Nike, Matisse. What role do they play in your work?
There are a few sources of inspiration that have helped me define my identity which has helped me define the kind of work I want to make. Archival Margiela, Nike and Henry Matisse all have something in common, which is the ability to make something so purely true to themselves that it challenges the way people perceive what’s ‘good’. Margiela with the raw cuts and confrontational silhouettes of the 90’s, the tabis which almost seemed too ugly to exist. Nike’s courage to take a side and boldly say it like it is. Henry Matisse’s defiance of annoying delicate aesthetics of the renaissance period, breaking perspective entirely. Placing everything on one plane, or many, or the wrong plane and totally fucking with the concept of close and far and distant and near. It’s rude because it’s authentic. I like it.
What’s the message you’d like people to get from your work?
I don’t want people to get any message from my work. I just want them to look at it and feel something. Whatever that something is, is up to them.
There’s a strong presence of women in your paintings, what are they telling us as viewers?
Every other space in our (my) world is dominated by white men and their opinions and narratives, their humor, their idea of good, bad and right and wrong. I wanted to create a space that belonged to the stories, and narratives of the women I have grown up with.
Would you be able to share a ritual that inspires your creativity?
Of course! It starts off with a feeling of itchiness, like if I don’t make something my fingers will fall off, then I dip into a state of panic, frustration, knowing I have something in my head but I can’t seem to get it out. Next comes a few hours of sketching, searching old photos, making “visual ideas”, then it’s a feeling of “Ok I’ve got something I’m excited about, this could be interesting” and then a feeling of absolute calm and happiness while painting the piece… and once I’m done, a feeling of pride and accomplishment which lasts all of a few hours.
Can you give us one fact about yourself/your life/your experiences that you believe is key to your creativity and what you express through your artwork?
I don’t quite know how to put it into words. I guess I’m hyper aware of my self identity. I don’t know if this is a good thing. I guess having the experience of being a brown woman in a world that doesn’t accept our stories and experiences is a big one. The feeling of never feeling 100% at home anywhere. Not in India, as I moved away quite a long time ago, and not in Amsterdam because I’m not from here. Being caught somewhere in the middle is a feeling that really defines me. In good and bad ways.
This is a tough time with the majority of the population around the world in quarantine. What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a hobby now?
Be kind to yourself. Don’t let the pressure of ‘having’ to be creative and productive get to you. It’s ok to not ‘make the most’ out of a pandemic. Listen and take care of your body. And then if you are up to it, do something that you have always wanted to but never had the time to try or been too scared to take the first step.