2017 has been a great year for Kulture Shop. we launched a spanking new store in the heart of Mumbai’s art district, Kala Ghoda. 20 new artists are now part of the platform along with more than 60 new works. We collaborated on campaigns with Colgate and Elle (links). We also did some travelling to the London Design Festival as part of an exhibit titled BOLD showcasing Indian graphic work that is redefining our visual identity. To wrap up the year and look ahead, here’s us catching up with exhibit’s curator Arpna Gupta on the festival itself, her selection process, and the future of Indian graphic art as she sees it.
Bold – Graphic Design from India was up for display from 6-30 December showcasing Indian graphic artists
working in collaborative ways to produce new graphic art.
KS: Previously you had mentioned that Graphic Design is at the core of Indian Culture, whereas a lot of people feel that Indian culture has a much stronger foundation in craft. How do you see these two co-existing in today?
Arpna: India is a very visual country and Graphic Design is now becoming vital in contemporary Indian culture. Traditionally in our culture there has not been a marked segregation of creative practices – craft, applied art, design. They are quite interlinked and have been practiced in a more organic way. There is a certain amount of craft in graphic design but in the modern context craft and graphic design are two different things. Craft industries can benefit immensely from good graphic design and Graphic Design practices can be richer by learning from craft.
Type Design by Ek Type and The Typecraft Initiative on display at BOLD.
KS: Could you tell us a little bit more about the lens with which you selected these 6 studios to showcase as a part of the Bold exhibition?
Arpna: I went through a wide-reaching selection process, mapping out the graphic design landscape in India and contacting, interviewing and speaking to a range of designers. From a curatorial perspective, I was keen to showcase the breadth of talent in Indian graphic design, showing designers working in a range of practices and graphical styles, mediums and so on. I was also interested in juxtaposing various designers and to create a dialogue between the different segments of the exhibition.
Steering clear of branding and commercial work, I focussed on small independent studios. After nearly six months of research, I discovered a strong movement/ wave of collaboration and experimentation in the industry and I chose to focus on that as a basis for the narrative of the exhibition. I think it’s quite a powerful positive force – looking at what Kulture Shop, Design Fabric, Ek Type and other such projects are doing.
Kulture Shop Canvas Prints at BOLD (artwork and artist names L-R): Retro Futurism Portrait 1 – A1 by Osheen Siva | Bromance – A3 by Sanchit Sawaria | Don’t Mess with Me – A3 by Jas Charanjiva | Holy Cow – A2 by Aviral Saxena | 8 – A3 by Shiva Nallaperumal | Amby – A2 by Kunal Anand | Bombay – A3 by Kunel Gaur
KS: This is the third edition of Indian Design Platform. In these short few years, how have you seen the wider visual communications scene and community in India grow and change?
Arpna: Last year Ishan Khosla published a design report for the Dutch Government and he called it “Design Pataka”. I think this title really sums up what is happening in the Indian Design scene right now. There is a burst of energy, enthusiasm and productivity that we have not seen before. I think it’s particularly great in the visual communication scene. We have a long way to go as far as product and industrial design is concerned but we are taking big steps to get there.
Over the last few years, I have noticed that Indian designers are becoming increasingly accessible as they present and document their work better through blogs, websites and so on.
The Typecraft Initiative’s Godna tribal tattoo typeface hopes to revive fading crafts and tribal art-forms through the digital medium. People involved: Ishan Khosla, Andreu Balius and three Gond tribeswomen — Ram Keli, Sunita and Sumitra from Chattisgarh.
KS: From the works curated Indianama is one of the largest projects. It has 70 visual artists (to match 69 years of freedom) each creating a motion poster in the style of a traditional travel and tourism poster, and it aims to challenge the cliched ‘Incredible India’ imagery that has been used to sell India for years. How do you feel the foreign and primarily British audience will engage with this visual depiction of 21st century Indian culture?
Arpna: The most rewarding part of organising exhibitions is the audience interaction and response to the exhibits. With Indianama it was fantastic to see that most visitors were really trying to understand what the posters represented and also keenly reading the captions to get familiar with the event or subject the graphic designer had chosen to take their inspiration from. We had a lot of visitors from the Indian diaspora who were obviously very interested in discovering this semi-alternative timeline of India’s independence years. I think motion posters were engaging on their own as digital artworks rather than in the context of tourism posters per se. I have to add that visitors from the graphic design community were really inspired by the two typography projects- Ek Type and The Typecraft Initiative by Ishan Khosla Design that we showcased.
Indianama – a poster exhibition where 70 designers came together to respond to a specific year of the 70 years since India’s Independence.
KS: Of the works curated which one surprised, or delighted you the most?
Arpna: It’s quite hard to pick favourites but I really enjoyed zines by the Kadak collective, Tiffin Towers by Kunal Anand, Rasoi by Shweta Malhotra.
Kulture Shop Artist and independent designer Shweta Malhotra’s prints, and Kulture Shop Artist and Studio Kohl founder Mira Malhotra’s Unfolding the Saree Zine on display.
KS: The exhibition includes some work rooted in traditional media like illustration and typography, but it also has GIFs and motion posters and a collective of South Asian women making comics. We feel it spans a good range from past to the future. If you had to lay your bets, where do you see Indian design heading the next few years?
Arpna: We did our best to showcase the full breadth of talented people working in India. Design is still a very niche profession in India. While the digital revolution has made basic graphic design a necessity for almost everything, it seems like most interesting work will be done commercially for web-based projects or for passion led personal projects. If someone wants to take on the challenge, we have a huge opportunity to use graphic design to improve our public spaces, wayfinding and everyday communication. There is a lot of talk about design being local, responding to the vernacular. I hope we can continue to develop a visual language that communicates with our folks at home and also appeals to the wider world.
Design Fabric at LDF
The exhibition was held at East London’s independent arts centre, Rich Mix.
A big thanks to curator Arpna Gupta and all those who took part in the exhibition. Kulture Shop is delighted to have made it to the Bold exhibit with such incredible graphic art work alongside it. We can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring to the graphic art movement in India.
Photography Credits: Theo Cohen, Dee Dhanjal and Dave Reffell
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