Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Talking Art at Eureka

On a chilly Sunday morning I headed over to Eureka book-store in Delhi’s Alaknanda colony. Much to my delight (and their mothers' I’m sure) the quaint little shop quickly filled up with excited ten-year-olds.

Sipping a cup of hot lemon chai and yummy jam tart biscuits that Swati offered, I wondered if they’d enjoy what I’d planned. I thought I’d do a visual introduction to the works of the artists and then tie in the books.

Setting my trepidations aside, I started off with showing the young audience a print of a work done by Husain of Mother Theresa. This work, I told them, was clearly inspired by Michelangelo’s Pieta. I was delighted when some of them connected it with their visits to museums abroad. We talked around Husain’s style and we compared it to another painting he’d done a few decades ago, the children were amazed to see the difference in style. For my part, I was thrilled they had picked up the nuances. Then we flipped through Barefoot Husain and I talked about a few incidents from Husain’s life.

Similarly I touched on each artist by talking around their paintings and then the books. The youngsters were quick to grasp the complexities and full of questions. They wanted to know how many paintings each artist made? Did Ravi Varma have to sell his printing press and die a pauper? How did Amrita die so young? Most of them had read Amar Chitra Kathas and were surprised that the visuals were inspired by Ravi Varma’s paintings.

They also shared some of their experiences with art. In fact one of the children’s grandfather owned a Husain and a Jamini Roy. Another had spent an afternoon copying Jamini Roy’s work. Some of them were interested in becoming painters or animators.
Then, Anunya Mittal, a child from the audience, and I read a part of The Veena Player where she played Valsa’s part beautifully. We made sure we didn’t blow the suspense in the book.

We went on to play a couple of games like word search and word scramble based around the ‘Looking at Art’ books. The bright bunch that they were, they cracked them all. We finally ended with matching different paintings to the artist who’d drawn them.
The delightful Sunday morning came to an end with the signing of books.

— Anjali Raghbeer, Author