Narratives for Indian Modernity: The Aesthetic of Brij Mohan Anand

Narratives for Indian Modernity: The Aesthetic of Brij Mohan Anand is a book about artist B. M. Anand and his work. Anand was a self-taught artist — a maverick, modernist and constructivist whose work, despite its powerful graphic quality has remained unknown for years. The objective of the design is to highlight this strong graphic quality and his political and rebellious "outsider" nature — and bring it to the attention of collectors, curators, art historians, galleries, museums and art lovers. Print Run: 1200 copies.

Design Solution
This book was designed by keeping in mind the artist’s work as an outsider artist, a modernist and constructivist. While grid emphasized the modernist aspect — the breaking of the grid enabled us to create a more avant-garde layout that reflected the maverick nature of his work more appropriately. The slipcase and cover were designed to enthrall the viewer with his powerful graphic oeuvre

Author Statement
A trenchant critic of both British imperialism and Indian militarism, Brij Mohan Anand’s highly politicised aesthetic tracked India’s emergence from Partition, Independence and its journey through the technological challenges of the Cold War and the complex modernity of the later twentieth century.

An accomplished and principally self-taught artist, B.M. Anand (1928–1986), fashioned an exceptional range of work from scratchboards, sketches, genre scenes, pastoral images and starkly modernist figure compositions to a series of late, apocalyptic landscapes. His expansive creativity and sharp eye for visual innovation extended into graphics-based design, educational and illustration work which was routinely commissioned and supported by some of India’s leading cultural and news organisations.

Anand’s life and aesthetic intersected with some of the foundational events which defined and shaped modern Indian consciousness. From the bitter, family legacy of the Amritsar massacre, through to the trauma of Partition and the post-Independence realpolitik of Congress and Communist Party mandates, he recognised the self-deception and vanity of power and the complicity of the élites through which it was exercised. Anand’s legacy registers a singular consciousness; a profoundly human belief in a socially redemptive aesthetic and the agency of ordinary men and women to realise and to fashion their own futures within a contested modernity.

Narratives for Indian Modernity follows the rediscovery and painstaking restoration of much of Anand’s oeuvre, the location of previously overlooked archival and family records and interviews with surviving peers and friends. In doing so, it offers a critical perspective on an outsider artist and maverick who eschewed the attractions and blandishments of a commercial or overseas career, but who nevertheless kept witness to India’s rebirth as a sovereign nation and ultimately, its emergence as a regional superpower.

The images right at the bottom show our "war room" which was the nerve centre created to map out all the images of the book in the order they appeared in the book. This visual reference really helped us understand the flow of the book in terms of image density (number of images per section and spread) and contrast (variation of type of image). Seeing this wall of images in front of us everyday was both daunting at first but also enthralling as we went about designing and completing the book.