Notes is our latest series on exploring the dynamics of creativity over an informal break. We chatted with some of the most eminent as well as some of the upcoming artists in India today. We caught up with Deborah di Fiore of Modest Genius Design to talk about her journey and inspirations.

Deborah di Fiore – Image by Neville Sukhia

Your visual language is quite distinctive. Could you tell us about your journey towards it?

There are some important moments in my life that are decisive – like my first Art Book, when I was eleven years old. It was a beautiful book on Picasso and I got obsessed, something that continues till this day. Secondly, when I started studying at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Decoratif de Paris, for 5 years, I explored different disciplines and techniques, before graduating in graphic design.

The Acrobat & Girl With A Mirror by Picasso. Image Source. 

In my bag, there’s always a sketchbook. These days, I’m using this ink brush pen to draw on craft paper. I usually sketch whatever is around me, mostly people. It is an exercise I have to practice everyday.

While working, I listen to music, all sorts of music… and some podcast about science, history or philosophy…

Your design is often rooted in your surroundings – what’s your thought process as you design – for instance, your series on Islamic architecture?

I think one of the reasons I create images is in a way to question the reality we live in, so it is all about observing, absorbing and transforming what is around us…

Last January, I went travelling to Delhi and I was sketching using the red colour that I associate with the city.

I started a series of Monghol architecture drawings. From the sketches, I wanted to make something more graphic and modern, so I used stripes.

“Twisted Tradition” could be the name of this Islamic Architecture series. It is a subject I would like to explore : the relation we have with our cultural heritage, and what we do with it – where tradition meets modernity.

At the same time, I was reading a lot about Daniel Buren. I love the work he has done in public places in particular. Usually using stripes, his visuals attract your attention to a certain place. I found it very interesting how he makes us look at our environment in a different way.

The series of architectural drawings will be exhibited in Marie Helene de Taillac’s boutique windows and Isetan in Tokyo in February 2017.

What are your favourite art spaces around the world?

Let’s start with Paris where I was born and raised. It is amazing what the city can offer in terms of culture.

Then the Venice Art Biennale is the best art experience I’ve ever had. The full city is a place to explore with hidden art installations.

And Sue Kaoukji’s office in Kuwait. Sue Kaoukji, in addition to being my best friend’s mom and my inspiration, is the curator of The Al-Sabah Collection. The collection regroups some precious objects from the Mughal era and is travelling the world. I had the chance to see some of the objects when I visited Sue in her office. Opening drawers and cupboards full of treasures was a magical experience, like Ali Baba’s cave was opened to me! The Treasure of Humanity is kept so well here, with so much respect, it is very impressive and touching.

Tell us a little about your travels from Paris to Bombay.

Ho that was completely unexpected!

I was very bored in Paris after I graduated. So as soon I would make a bit of money, I would buy a flight ticket and run away!

It is almost 12 years ago that I flew to India. I had found a job in Rajasthan; a French lady was opening an art gallery and artist residency in a beautiful haveli in Shekhawati. I went to work for her for sometime.. India was so different from my culture, it was fascinating and funny! I was happy.

After the exhibition project got over, I went to Jaipur to meet the famous French jewellery designer Marie Helene de Taillac. I started to work with her – I was responsible for her jewellery production and was also designing for the new Hot Pink concept store. Working closely with the best artisans in Jaipur was a magical experience.

Then it was time to start my own project, so I started Modest Genius Design, working on art direction, graphic design and illustration.

If you only had one colour left to design with, which one would you choose & why?

Blue is my colour, because it feels so good!


February 10, 2017 — Digital Impressions