Business News/ Mint-lounge / Features/  ‘Modern but not Western’

It’s called a madder moon when you find the moon in a visibly rich shade of crimson. The crimson reference, in turn, is borrowed from the European madder plant, from which a natural dye is extracted and used to colour textiles. The newly founded Singapore-based art and design gallery presumably takes its name from the lunar phenomenon and the dye that gives Indian textiles its many shades of deep red.

Three Indian designers based in Singapore have come up with the concept of curating and promoting contemporary Indian design. While Rajee Vissa and Priya Kainikara Sharma, apparel designers, are business partners, R.P. Abraham, a furniture designer with his own consultancy, is a consulting partner.

The Nugget Lamp by Ayush Kasliwal echoes the facets of a cut jewel.
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The Nugget Lamp by Ayush Kasliwal echoes the facets of a cut jewel.

However, what exactly the Indian design identity is, is a question that presents itself frequently. “Someone put it very well. Anything you say about India, the exact opposite is also true," laughs Vissa. But what’s interesting for us is to see whether it is possible to modernize without Westernizing, she adds.

Vissa cites Bangalore-based designer Sandeep Sangaru’s example. “He works with a native material (bamboo). He works with local karigars (craftsmen). But he’s developed his own technique of bending the bamboo, and the final product is something completely contemporary. Or look at Ayush Kasliwal, he has achieved the same. He works with karigars in Jaipur. His work is deeply rooted in the crafts, whether it’s beaten brass, stone carving or mirror work. But the final product is contemporary and can be put in the living room of any home anywhere in the world. That way indigenous crafts don’t get limited by themselves by being something totally ethnic and traditional," explains Vissa.

Spanning apparel, textiles, ceramics, products, furniture and the visual media, the three curators have brought on board some of the most interesting Indian designers already. There’s Delhi-based Alex Davis, Srishti Bajaj of DesignBait and Sandeep Sangaru in the product and lighting category; Maya Sara Matthew in the textiles and fashion category; Shirley Bhatnagar in ceramics and glass; Dithi Chakraborty for art and illustration; and Chandan Dubey, Smita Barooah Sanyal and Srinivas Bhakta for film and animation. Starting 30 November, their first curated collection, themed Man Machine, will be on display.

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Maya Sara Matthew’s line of textiles based on maps and travel, using tea dyed fabric and traditional Indian embroidery.

With a threefold aim—to curate, collaborate and educate—Madder Moon will be coming up with new showcases every three months, and workshops and seminars from time to time. “We see Madder Moon as one umbrella where designers from different backgrounds can come together and collaborate with each other as well as local Singaporean designers," says Vissa. That too in a historical Singaporean shophouse.

With high ceilings, stripped wood floors, a basement conservatory with a skylight and wooden buttresses, shutter windows and clay Malacca tiles, the gallery has a character of its own that the designers have preserved and built on. “We want people to come and experience the space and the design works," says Vissa.

But while every other business is moving online, Madder Moon has decided to stick to its beautiful gallery premises for all business purposes. “It’s a temporary decision. We’ll revise it in time. But for now we won’t retail online because we don’t want to be seen solely as agents for these designers. The aim is to promote these designers’ works, show them to the rest of the world, and give back to them. It is our way of saying thank you," says Vissa.

Madder Moon is located on 16, Ann Siang Road, Singapore. The first showcase begins 30 November. For details, visit

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Updated: 16 Nov 2012, 05:19 PM IST
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