When the artworks of nine youngsters on the autism spectrum from Bengaluru were displayed at the Kochi Biennale earlier in February, Anima Nair, the co-founder of the academy that works with the youth, was very happy. Little did she know though, that thanks to the traction the artwork got at the Biennale, the pieces of five of her students would make their way to Paris to be displayed at the Outsider Art Fair (OAF). Outsider art is essentially art that is made by someone who is not professionally trained in it.
Anima is the co-founder of Sense Kaleidoscopes, a six-year-old academy based in Bengaluru that works with 15 such youngsters with autism and Aspergers Syndrome, and trains them in art so that they can earn a living from it.
She tells TNM that the 22 pieces of artwork made by five students of Sense Kaleidoscopes being chosen for the OAF Paris, which displays artwork by galleries, dealers, non-profits and publications, is a matter of great pride and validation. “All artwork included in the application must be made by self-taught, outsider, or art brut artists,” says the OAF’s website.
“After the artwork was put up at the Kochi Biennale, some of our students were interviewed by the media as well. All of that caught the eye of an individual who later wrote to us saying that they would like to display the artwork in Paris. They offered us a stall there, but later waived off the charges for that as well,” Anima shares.
The students whose artworks have been chosen for Paris are Rohit Anand (19), Ayush Bhambhani (20), Kalash Cariappa (17), Adarsh Shetty (23) and Anima’s 19-year-old son, Pranav, all of whom are on the autism spectrum.
The artworks themselves are extraordinary, and reflect how differently each child sees art. For instance, there is a five-feet long dragon painted by Rohit that is intricately designed and full of patterns and colours.
Imagine my dragons
One of Ayush’s artworks that has been chosen is a dog, sitting lopsided, filled in with minuscule and detailed patterns. He has also drawn mudras from Indian classical dance forms, superimposed on a mosaic of a background.
'A dog's world'
Many of Pranav’s designs are geometric, with depth and dimension created through colour.
'Think. Believe. See'
Kalash uses web-like structures in his art, making it more abstract.
Adarsh, meanwhile, does portraits.
The students, including Rohit and Pranav, were quite excited about the news, Anima says, more so because they thought they were going to go to Paris. Unfortunately, though, that did not materialise, even though Anima tried raising money through crowdfunding. “The costs were quite a lot, especially with packaging and shipping the artwork too. We thought we would raise money for the boys to go to Paris too, but the crowdfunding platform we were working with did not take off on time,” Anima says.
“Now, they (Rohit and Pranav) are talking about how they will earn money and go to Paris,” she adds.
In an earlier interview with TNM, Anima had talked about how they motivate those students who are drawn towards art to hone it, and use it to earn and be self-sufficient. “A lot of our children are naturally drawn to art – maybe because they have difficulty in expressing verbally what they want. Maybe they perceive the world so differently from the way we perceive it. Their senses are differently wired,” she had said.
OAF Paris, that will be held from October 17 to 20, will feature artwork from galleries across the world. If any of her students’ artworks is sold at the fair, Anima says that 60% of the amount will go the artist, and some will be used by Sense Kaleidoscopes to recover their costs.