CHENNAI : A humble exhibit of paintings, beside the Easter decorations on the ground floor of Express Avenue Mall, drew curious onlookers, recently. It was an exhibition-cum-sale of about 15 paintings and artwork made by persons with autism, to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day (April 2), curated by the Chennai-based Kai Raasi and We Can.
Some of the paintings and quilled art were a collective work by children, and a few others were individual and abstract paintings made over months. Sharada Rajaram, senior team member, We Can, explained that the paintings are an outcome of vocational classes in art imparted to children at the school. “Our art therapist worked with the children for about three months, and they all explored their creativity. The basic layers were made by the younger children, to which textures and finer details were added by the older children,” she shared.
The aim was to make art a means of expression, and a way to help older persons with autism make a living. Indira Reddy, co-founder of Kai Raasi, admits that while it is hard to make a sustainable income with art, it’s still a starting point. “We offer training in design skills, which makes it easier to find jobs. And we insist that their paintings are looked at as works of art, so there is no sense of sympathy attached at such exhibitions,” she said.
The collection included an Indian folk artwork, a painting made with CDs, one with leaves from We Can’s campus, paintings with blowers, fingers, pieces of a broken comb made into a tree, and even a quilled piece of two happy children flying kites. “We’ve observed that each artist has a unique way of working, and while some like abstract, there are other literal ones where there is one idea and the viewer gets it instantly,” explained Kadambari N, co-founder of Kai Raasi, as she referred to a painting with white lines of a building on a black base.
The exhibition was open from 11 am to 6 pm. Family members of artists, and members from Kai Raasi and We Can were around all day, explaining to the visitors the process that went into each painting. Other children from schools in the city that work with disability-related issues, visited the exhibition. Kadambari shared, “The response was really good, and it was a chance for the children who visited, to see that they are capable of producing such work too.”