Mira Malhotra distinctly classifies the nitty-gritty of Indian design, and the reasons why it is so different from design that comes out through most of the other parts of the world. To provide perspective, she uses the contrast of European art to display the difference in the two approaches.
Anything that is distinctly from the Indian subcontinent makes a design Indian. Motifs, forms, colours and or visual treatment; putting paisley on something, and so on, can make a design Indian. From colourful folk items of Kutchh to earthy colours of block prints, or to certain organic elements like depictions of lotuses, all constitute ‘Indian-ness’. Yet, it can be just the content that makes something Indian i.e. what something constitutes and not just the way it is represented. A broad example of this would be the many numbers of symbols that India has in its culture, and which represent this part of the world – such as the cow, the lotus, elephants, a little oil lamp and so on.
The most important thing to develop Indian design is to stop looking at design from the west, and instead embrace what we see around us. It will automatically translate into your work, and your work will ultimately feel more Indian because it is genuine, honest and truthful. We have a tendency to glorify design and art in the contemporary western world while overlooking the ancient and powerful design of our culture and history. It’s time to openly and consciously acknowledge their strength and impact, which have kept them eternally relevant.
It can also just be an approach. Art in India differs from its counterparts in the West greatly. European art (derived from Graeco Roman canon) is ‘perceptual’, and ours is ‘conceptual’. Both classical and folk arts in India (as it is in many other eastern countries) subscribe to this. For e.g. in Indian classical arts, the human figures were drawn as an ideal, rather than based in reality.
In rural and folk arts like Madhubani, the approach is less academic or rooted in studies of actual objects, and is purely based on the ‘Draw what you know’ approach, rather than the ‘Draw what you see’ approach of Europe.
Indian art pays little heed to perspective, regardless of whether is it is a one-point perspective; two-point perspective or other such devices that make drawings look ‘real’. And, a lot of Indian art is also non- representational i.e. It is more abstract than based in the physical world.
Personally, I feel that European and Eastern practices differ in what is quantifiable, the former focusing more on it, while the east does on what is not quantifiable, which is why, for Indians, developing the mathematical concept of ‘Zero’ was also easier.
Published in Issue 39
Indian Design Special! As the festivity is all around, every brand or business is trying to impress the Indian audience. But what really works for us Indians? What is an Indian design? And how we can make designs for India? To understand it, we interviewed some Indian creatives who are successfully creating designs for the Indian audience. Neha Tulisan, the founder of NH1 design, highlights to understand how we Indians live; how we grew up; and what moves us emotionally. Whereas Mira Malhotra, founder of Studio Khol, emphasises on the difference between Western and Indian Sensibilities. Also, we support keeping ourselves connected with Indian cultures, languages, history, aspirations and more, will help find the Indian context in everything we create.
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