A chronicle of grids

A chronicle of grids

Documenting scriptures

A chronicle of grids

When Dimple Bahl studied history of graphic design from Rhode Island School of Design, she noticed how Book of Kells (a manuscript containing the four Gospels of the New Testament together with various prefatory texts and tables) held so much value for the museum displaying it.

But at the same time, she could not connect with it. “That is when I realised that if their scriptures hold such significance for them, what about our scriptures back home which have not been given similar importance. I felt like we are taking our own culture for granted,” recollects Bahl, who teaches graphic design in the department of fashion communication at National Institute of Fashion Technology, Delhi.

“Graphic design has been my baby. However, there came a stage in my life when teaching became monotonous. I got inquisitive as to how graphic design and our culture are related, and I started deepening my understanding of typography, grid structure, colour usage, colour compositions and illustrations,” Bahl, who has been an academician since 17 years, tells Metrolife.

Consequently as part of her doctoral research, she started studying the presence and role of grids in Indian scriptures, with the focus on Jain scriptures.

“Overwhelmed with the information on grids, I decided to narrow down my study. The grid structures intrigued me the most. The way they had divided space between them showed fluidity. Especially when I saw that they were using the same old lines and still created forms including swastika, mandalas, kolam, havankund and janampatri. I wanted to study the principles, if available at all,” says Bahl who started her research six years ago.

While she studied Tibetian and Tamrapatra manuscripts from South India, it were the Jain scriptures from Rajasthan and Gujarat, with its detailed patterns that came close to her area of research. “I studied 1099 folios (in Jain cosmology) in which I realised that there was a pattern being followed. I wanted to simplify and emphasise that hardcore graphic design existed in India, much before western principles of design came into being,” avers Bahl.

In a first of a series of exhibitions, Bahl has conceptualised ‘Scripting the past for the future’, detailing the link between ancient design principles and graphic design as we know it today. Along with explaining grid structures like Chakravyuh, Padmavyuh, Sriyantra among others, the exhibit also takes viewers on an exploration of temple designs, architecture and human form (The Vastupurusha).

On the challenges of collating materials and establishing a link between them, she points out, “Languages like Sanskrit and Prakrit were my first roadblock. So, I intended to not see the literal meaning of what was written, but tried to look at how it has been interpreted through visuals portrayed in the scripture.”

Ask her the significance of the subject and she says, “Presently our young ones live in a visual world where we take pictures to post on social media portals, without realising its historical significance. In a way, our own culture has become exotic for them, and I want to sensitise them in this  regard.”

The exhibition is on view till April 8 at Exhibition Hall 11, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).

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