Enroute to the four rooms that display vibrant works of Chinese artist Zhang Enli at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale,the visitor from Monday will be greeted by an array of highly colourful paintings - by Kochi’s very own school children.
The corridor leading to the much-acclaimed exhibits of the 47-year-old Shanghai-based painter at Aspinwall House in Fort Kochi, now beams with a collage of 1,000-odd postcards that bear an eloquent stamp of the fertile imagination of upper-primary and high-school students of the very city that is hosting the three-month art festival.
For the organisers, the postcard paintings come as a logical conclusion to a two-month-old project involving 23 schools in West Kochi and Ernakulam. Initiated in November last year as part of the biennale’s Educational Outreach programme, it aimed to encourage the artistic bend of the new generation and facilitate them to sketch and paint so as to join the country’s first such cultural jamboree.
Today, the varied-calibre talent of teenagers has found a spot in the main venue of the biennale that will conclude on March 13.
A chunk of the images on the postcards relates to scenic spots, popular cartoon characters on television, flowers and foliage. Big on imagination, all of them are in small in size - thus pleasantly contrasting the general biennale character of displaying massive works.
The first step towards accomplishing the task began in November when the organisers sent to select schools, biennale post-cards that had one side of it blank, according to Mary Priscilla Paul, who heads the outreach project. “It was meant for students, from class VII and above. They were free to sketch and colour any image they wished,” she adds.
Thus, Mary’s colleague, artist Kajal Charankattu and her team visited 23 schools which the Kochi Biennale Foundation had short-listed for the programme - and gave the students a 45-minute power-point presentation. “We subsequently entrusted each school with a set of biennale post-cards,” recalls Kajal.
Artist Riyas Komu, who is a co-curator of the biennale, is happy about the success of the scheme. “Our state has many children who have a talent for painting. Only that most of them aren’t lucky enough to get groomed. We thought we should give them a chance - but without feeding them with preconceived notions,” he says.
A Mumbai-based Malayali, Komu notes a close view of the postcard paintings will reveal the talent of several students who can make it to the top in the future. “Our endeavour will be a boost for them,” he adds.
The organisers now plan to send the cards on random to the visitors. “We also plan to give students training in painting,” says Komu.