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Exhibition Showcasing Work by Artists with Autism Opens to Public

In Kochi
February 26, 2019

KOCHI:
Thirty-eight children and young people on the autism spectrum are exhibiting their paintings in this city alongside the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Their ten-day show in Fort Kochi opened on Friday evening, showcasing 64 original artworks in total.

Titled ‘Outsider Art’, the February 22-March 3 exhibition highlights the work, mostly in the medium of drawing, of individuals whose art can often be sidelined in the mainstream art sphere. The event at Dravidia Gallery in Fort Kochi is special also because none of the artists of the 11-32 age group have been trained in formal art schools.

Ajai Vadakkath, whose son is on the autism spectrum, is the organiser of ‘Outsider Art’. To him, the exhibition, gives gifted minds a platform to showcase artistic flair. “What’s more, it helps society become aware of forms of creativity that exist outside of training institutes and accepted norms,” he says.

The selection of the artists at the ongoing show was done by Bose Krishnamachari, founder president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF). “When Ajai proposed this idea to me, I told him, ‘This show should not centre around their age; I will judge them on the basis of merit,” he says. “Some of the works are as good as any contemporary artists of our time.”

On Friday evening, Krishnamachari marked the inauguration of the show by lighting the lamp. The show is sponsored by spice extracts manufacturer-exporter Plant Lipids and organised in association with the KBF which is organising the 108-day biennale.

Some of the works are on sale too, informs Ajai. “The works of artist above 18 years of age are for anyone to buy,” he says. “For us, the younger kids are still honing their skills.”

The participating artists include Indubala, Rohit, Sakshi Chawla, Ayush Bambani, Kalash Kariappa, Sanjay, Sidharth Murali, Sachin Joshi, Tanisha Lahiri, Melvina and Kajal Ashar.

Among their benefactors is Akshayee Shetty, founder of a Bangalore-based centre for autism called Sense Kaleidoscopes, representing nine artists in the show here. “We want the world to understand that there can be a world beyond medical therapy for autistic children,” she says. “They are skilled artists in their own right.”

Apart from individual entries, organisers had received proposals from institutions such as A Brush With Art and Sarva Mangala Vihar Trust (both in Chennai) besides Colours Center for Learning, Bengaluru.

Mala Chinnappa, founder of A Brush With Art, says her institution works with children between the age group of 6 and 15 years. “The idea is to encourage them and see if they are inclined towards art,” says Mala, who is mother of an child showcasing her work in ‘Outsider Art’. “We let them do what they feel like.”

S R Padmavathi of Sarva Mangala Vihar works with adults on the spectrum. “Our idea is to create a community living for adults. The age group we work with is 20 years and above,” she says. “We aim to bring out the individual skills of these adults by involving them in various activities. We call it the workplace, as we are trying to provide a sustainable living for people with special needs.”