When city-based painter Chintamani Hasabnis graduated from his art college in 1986, he vowed against exhibiting his works at an exhibition unless his works had a social message or were capable of contributing to the society in some way. Although he continued painting all these years, he never showcased them. Three-and-a-half years ago, he encountered a ‘subject’ that was worth an exhibition. Three-and-a-half years ago, Hasabnis was standing on Karve Road’s busy traffic junction and his eyes fell on a young girl who was visually-challenged. Hasabnis noticed that while even those who had vision were struggling hard to cross the road, the girl effortlessly crossed the road taking the zebra crossing. “It left me surprised; the view was unbelievable. Without seeing she was ‘seeing’. And thus I decided to do paintings that even the visually-challenged could see through touch and feel,” recollects Hasabnis, whose art show titled ‘Closed Eyes and Open Minds’ will be showcased at Balgandharva Kaladalan from January 25 to January 27. The exhibition first opened up in Nehru Centre, Mumbai, nearly two months ago. It’s the first time it is being displayed in Pune. Altogether, the collection has 22 large size paintings.
Although Hasabnis began working on the series three years ago, achieving the final product proved challenging for him. “Initially, I would draw thick outlines, however, that didn’t work for the visually-challenged. Then I started learning braille for which I didn’t enroll in a formal class but read books and browsed the internet,” says the painter.
In order to make the visually-challenged touch and feel his paintings and understand the subjects of this theme, he puts the information about the subject in braille on the painting itself. “For instance, when I made Pt Ravi Shankar’s portrait. The painting had history of the maestro written in braille on the painting. Besides, I had fixed strings of the sitar painting itself that gave audio touch to the painting. Also, every painting comes with an audio file that can be heard with the headphones by the visually-challenged,” says the artist, adding that so far, the response has been very positive. Hasabnis has coined a new term for this entire concept of making the visually-challenged touching-and-feeling the artworks – ‘Emotional Decoder’. According to him, when a visually-challenged person feels anything, he makes his own image about it.