Street Graphics: Indiaby Barry Dawson
Nowhere is the visual cornucopia of street graphics more striking than in India, where a continuous gallery of images reflects the country's rich cultural diversity. From the Arabian Sea to the Indian Ocean, from the northern Himalayas to its southernmost tip, the subcontinent's overwhelming profusion of art and design excites the eyes. Street furniture, architecture, transport, billboards, posters, packaging, animals, and people are all used as the media of calculated design and spontaneous expression. Ancient or modern, permanent or transient, India's street art has evolved in a myriad of styles reflecting regional variation and concerns. Barry Dawson's photographs are not only a colorful journey through India's cities, towns, and villages, but also a graphic celebration of its creative street culture, an inspirational sourcebook of vibrant ideas for students and practitioners of art and design, as well as a lively visual record for visitors. 154 color photographs.
Author Biography: Barry Dawson's previous books include Arts and Crafts of India (with Ilay Cooper and John Gillow) and Traditional Buildings of India (with Ilay Cooper).
- Thames & Hudson
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 8.67(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Read an Excerpt
The streets of India are filled with vivid representations of popular cultural themes. These range across political utopianism, religious celebration and commercial advertising, presenting a visual parade of transport, animals and people, hoardings, street furniture, architectural detail, packaging, display -- backdrops and props of a rich cultural street theatre. Striking images blur in a confusion of colour, scale and quantity. Static or moving, figure or landscape, every surface is a panorama, every material a canvas, an opportunity for expression and communication. India's hectic festive calendar adds transient decorative layers of dye, paint, flowers and lights over a continuous celebration of street graphics.
From a simple handprint on a village wall to giant cut-out film stars downtown, tradition is evident in contemporary Indian street graphics. Today, symbols and motifs of an ancient culture provide a diverse visual reference for both traditional and modern applications through equally varied mediums. For example, three-dimensional representations of the Hindu deity Rama, carved in stone, can be found in temples throughout India -- centuries-old focal points for religious worship. On auspicious days, rickshaw drivers may spontaneously finger-paint white lines on their vehicle as an abstract representation of Rama. That same deity in full-colour figurative representation can be seen promoting commercial products and services on hoardings.
Most work is hand-rendered. Images are not produced with the uniformity of computer design and lithographic print, but are individually crafted by street artists with particular and regional variations in style and technique. Trucks, buses and rickshaws are transformed into kinetic art, personalized with symbols and motifs of religious and natural imagery. Sign painters clinging to precarious wooden scaffolds skilfully execute large hoardings, working from memory, sketches or magazine reproductions.
India has traditionally absorbed invading cultures, making them uniquely Indian. Western influence, evident here in turn-of-the-century wall paintings, is fast developing through an expanding market for Western goods. Tradition in North Indian street art now contrasts with increasing international image-making, advertising and marketing styles and techniques. The South retains a stronger indigenous influence, resisting the homogeneous while developing and celebrating its own diversity.
The density of India's street imagery generates an overwhelming visual collage. Juxtaposition creates incongruity, humour and irony. A visiting westerner, even with a background of research and experience, reads the imagery using ingrained western cultural references which differ vastly from the signs and signifiers of Indian cultural reference.
This is a subjective view of street art in India's cities, towns and villages -- a personal choice of photographs, isolated from the penetrating aromas, sounds and intense humanity of Indian streets. Selected and ordered clues to a visual influx of chaos, most of these images will have been replaced, added to or altered before publication. This is a document that celebrates the fun of that ephemeral process.
Excerpted by permission of Thames and Hudson. Copyright c 1999 Thames and Hudson Ltd. London.
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