My passion for Indian art started in the 1960s when UK shops were filled with all manner of Asian textiles, pictures and ornaments. These were the years of pop art, Hari Krishna and tie-dye. Made in India reflects “real” popular Indian art, that is to say the art available to the masses via advertising hoardings, boxes of matches, calendars etc. It ranges from primitive to elegant but always evocative.
The authors are evidently enamoured with this art form as they have produced similar volumes for Made in China and Made in Japan. Kalim Winata is a computer animation artist and an expert on Asian art. Reed Darmon has designed numerous books and gift products published by Chronicle Books.
Made in India is a chunky, compact volume that offers hundreds of images of everyday Indian graphic design from past centuries. They include folk art, religious prints, and black and white postcards from the time of the Raj, and artwork for children’s books. It’s a book to linger over.
Film has had a big impact on popular art. Made in India has a section devoted to that genre. Not the glitzy posters of Bollywood but marvellous romantic portraits of Ashok Kumar, for example, who was the king of the movies between the 30s and the 60s.
The transport posters are quite lovely and the artistic equal to any much-admired European equivalent. The luggage labels for celebrated hotels such as the Taj and the Oberoi would have adorned the cases of rich travellers of a century ago. An Air India fan of the 1960s is a snapshot of the Flower Power style of that era.
Do I have a favourite image from this lovely little book? Well, yes and it has to be of the goddess Saraswati. This representation is said to have been modelled on Bollywood star Hema Malini. It is a marvellously vibrant and charming print full of colour and religious symbolism. It remains stereotypically Asian while hinting at European Art Deco of the 1930s.
Made in India will be sought by any lover of art history, of popular art, of folk art or of all things Indian. It offers a peek into advertising graphics of the subcontinent. It’s amusing and thought-provoking.
Made in India
Authors: Kalim Winata, Reed Darmon
Published by: Chronicle Books
ISBN 13: 978-0811865029
Travel and style book review by Chrissie Walker © 2018