If in Pranav Nair’s work geometrical shapes come together to form a pattern, Sakshi Chalke presents a portrait titled I am Sakshi. The two Bengaluru-based artists are not familiar with each other’s oeuvre but in an exhibition supported by the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the 18-year-olds, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, are sharing the same platform. They are part of “Outsider Art” that comprises 64 works by 38 artists, aged between 11 to 32 years, diagnosed with the disorder.
“We hope that the show generates excitement and curiosity about the art practices of persons with special needs and more mainstream contemporary artists come forward to mentor these individuals so that we are truly able to help them realise their potential,” says Ajai Vadakkath, who ideated the exhibition in July 2018, when he chanced upon works by some of the artists in Bengaluru.
After Bose Krishnamachari, president and founder of the Kochi Muziris Biennale Foundation, gave a nod to his proposal, Vadakkath made an open call in November to autism organisations across India. The selection made from 230 entries, Vadakkath notes, was overseen by Krishnamachari. “The idea was to take that art — whose display and exhibition was restricted mostly to the special needs community itself — and show it alongside larger exhibitions being hosted by the big galleries or mainstream art platforms,” says Vadakkath, who also has a son with autism. He notes how the show at Dravidia Gallery in Fort Kochi is in consonance with curator Anita Dube’s vision for the Biennale that emphasises on “The Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life”.
Mala Chinnappa, facilitator with A Brush With Art in Chennai, that also has works of its students on display, says, “These children freely explore with art. It is an expression of their freedom. While watching them work, you wish you could work with such abandonment.” Working with the age group of 6 to 16, Chinnappa says, the children are given complete freedom with their compositions, while the organisation gives materials and basic guidance. “We have been observing how materials and colours they choose also have a reflection on the energy of the child. Children who are extremely hyper go for yellow, the ones who are calm and quiet usually choose reds and blues. Working with clay helps wash away stress,” says Chinnappa.
The exhibition at Dravidia Gallery in Fort Kochi is till March 3