Design in India

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When celebrated artist Rajeev Sethi announced his presentation consisting of 625 slides the crowd remained unfazed. Documenting his journey as a scenographer, art curator and artist over a career spanning various disciplines, over 4-decades, the Padma Bhushan awardee shared not just his artistic accomplishments but also his take on modern day politics.

From the humble Lotta (or the indian jar) to the house of India’s wealthiest Adani’s, from Indira Gandhi’s reception space for over a hundred state dignitaries to wedding planning for his God-children, Sethi easily stuns with his versatility. My personal favorite of all his works is the Basic Needs Pavilion he put together as a scenographer, for the EXPO 2000. The expo housed work by artists of the subcontinent fetching Sethi vast critical acclaim.

When he bellows, much like our charismatic Prime Minister, to not just Make, but Design in India, he does have a point. For inspiration or rather motivation, Sethi highlights proponents that had their beginnings in the Indian sub-continent, from the earthern ware, the rolling pin, tin jars and containers, the Indian cloth weave, to modern day yoga. We must he says revive the Indian industry and do our part to not let the local arts and crafts of our country wither away. Arts and crafts emerging from the Indian subcontinent are known for their diversity and great composition. After all ours is a country that is deeply inspired by beauty, beauty and emotion, the stalwarts of all great art.

Quoting from the Puranas, addressing a crowd of architects and designers, he recites that one cannot be a great architect if one is not a dancer, one cannot be a great dancer if one is not a musician, one cannot be a great musician if one is not a sculptor, while one cannot be a great sculptor if one is not a mathematician. Going on to show how unbelievably inter-connected the world really is. Another great piece of work Sethi has done is for Louis Vuitton, forming an indigenous connection with the deities of Lakshmi and Vinayak.

Today the Jaya He walk at the Mumbai Airport hosts a rather impressive collection of art from the depths of the country, a collection curated by Sethi under the patronage of the Reddys. Just like sound does not end, it resonates, Sethi quite like an admirable artist prods one to consider in chaste Hindi, translated to, “do I pass through life, or does life pass through me”. Urging one to live sensibly, that is with all the senses, to feel rather than to simply think!

Through feeling, he says we can prevent ourselves from being like the Musk Deer that searches frantically for the fragrance that lies within itself.

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