Inside A World of Symmetrical Patterns – Mandira Ravindranath's Wondrous ArtCreators And Collectors
Imagine worlds created with symmetrical patterns and tiny shapes, so perfect they almost look like prints. Such are the painstakingly hand-drawn creations of fashion designer turned artist Mandira Ravindranath, whose unique approach to art is refreshing and wondrous. With each of her works capable of transporting you to new dimensions, Mandira’s exquisite pen and ink artworks are the ideal visual treat for compulsive perfectionists.
Born and brought up in Delhi, Mandira Ravindranath has been a doodler from the time she was a child. Drawing the female form came to her naturally, and she developed a love for sketching women and clothes early on. Fashion, therefore, was an obvious career choice. Mandira studied Fashion Design at the Pearl Academy in Delhi, and then in London, after which she returned to India and entered the fashion industry. She spent 7 years working with one of India’s most renowned fashion designers - Tarun Tahiliani, and eventually became head designer of his bridal couture line, where she was involved in creating stunning and intricate works of art, albeit using textile as a medium.
But there is such a thing as too much beauty, and in Mandira Ravindranath’s case, it left her oversaturated, with an urge to do something different. “I knew that if I branched out on my own, it would involve something that offered more creative freedom than fashion and garments,” she says.
Left: Black Water Lilies, Right: Land Bound Mermaid by Mandira Ravindranath
Those endless days of doodling in her childhood, led Mandira to her first canvas, and away from an illustrious career in fashion. Yet, one look at her intricate artworks and her highly ornamental style of drawing, and one can see the reflection of years of skills she has picked up in the world of fashion design. “When you’re surrounded by so much beauty and ornamentation, that aesthetic is bound to enter your sub-conscious, and influence anything else you do,” Mandira explains.
The Art of Patterns
Mandira Ravindranath’s creations are dizzying in their detail, possessing an almost-hypnotic charm that pulls the viewer in, as if they are portals to different dimensions. Each artwork is composed of patterns within patterns, repeated with seemingly scientific accuracy. “I’d describe my works with words like precision and exactitude, rather than ‘scientific’. Things just need to fit well organically and not look jarring,” she shares. With each line and shape executed in perfect symmetry, Mandira uses a ruler and compass only to draw basic grids, before filling in the forms and details free hand. Depending on the intricacy of the artwork, Mandira takes anywhere between a few weeks to a few months to complete each piece.
On the Ocean Floor by Mandira Ravindranath
The themes that inspire Mandira and feature in her art are completely in sync with the way she depicts them. “I grew up in an urban landscape, but the themes I depict in my art are nature-inspired. I draw a lot of ideas from nature’s elements like leaves, bubbles, sea shells, etc.” A compulsive museum hopper, Mandira’s inspirations also come from geometrical patterns that she always seems to find in things around her, from Art Nouveau paintings to architectural details in buildings and monuments.
Starry Starry Night by Mandira Ravindranath
Of Colour and Medium
Although completely self-taught, Mandira Ravindranath possesses a natural artistic instinct, which shows in her confident choice of medium. “I love pen and ink as a medium, because it allows me the scope to put in as much detail as I want, which I wouldn’t be able to do if I used just oils or acrylics,” she shares. Mandira creates her artworks on archival paper, mostly in black and white. But every now and then she adds a pop of colour, which is when she turns to acrylic, applying the paint in a special technique she learnt from Ange Peter, a ceramic artist residing in Auroville, Pondicherry. The layers of paint she applies to her artwork build up to form a slightly raised texture that contrasts against the flatness of her black and white sketches, to add depth to her intricate works.
The Convergence of Art and Design
With the level of precision required in her art, Mandira Ravindranath’s approach to creating her artworks is very different from other artists. “I don’t actually have the freedom to improvise my artworks as I go, so I spend a lot of time planning my course before I finally set out on the artwork,” says Mandira. Sometimes, she does this by creating a mini-scale version of the artwork, where she plans out the patterns, colours and the complex flow of lines. This unique approach, where the entire design process plays a vital role, is an integral part of her creative process. It is also something she imbibed from her days of working with Tarun Tahiliani, who believed that every step in the process of making something beautiful, must also look aesthetically pleasing.
The perfectionist in Mandira isn’t just satisfied with creating a stunning piece of art. This facet of her personality also guides Mandira in the way she presents her art to people, especially in exhibitions, where everything is controlled by her to sync with the art, from the choice of venue to the design of the frames.
'Circles in the Sand' from 'Sea Glass', a solo exhibition of artworks by Mandira Ravindranath in October 2017
The Road Ahead
While it’s still early days, Mandira Ravindranath has received positive feedback and encouragement for her work, with people praising the uniqueness of her style. “To be honest, the visual language and use of patterns is something that already exists in India’s traditional and folk artforms such as Madhubani and Gond. I’m just contemporizing it,” she admits, exuding a quiet confidence that is reassuring.
The artist, Mandira Ravindranath, with her artwork, Summer Sunset
Excited about what the future holds for her, Mandira is certain about one thing - that patterns will continue to feature in her work. But she does want to experiment more with mediums, perhaps attempting to work with rice paper, or even trying her hand at installation. And with her dedication, raw talent, and quest for perfection, there is every reason to look forward to the next step in this promising artist’s journey.