When Art Transcends Medium

What happens when one of the basic elements that you use to create art itself becomes an art? When 25 enthusiastic children walked into Ravi Kashi’s studio in July, he was all set to shake their very definition of art. On their arrival, as he got to know the students better, he enquired about the kind of work that they had done. Apart from sketching still lives, painting and colouring, few children had explored other mediums of art.

So when Ravi brought out a big tub full of cotton pulp and announced that they would be making paper, he was greeIMG_2700ted with stunned silence. I even heard a student saying, “Eww. There’s no way I’m putting my hands into that.” The process was fairly simple. Children were given pulp made from shredded waste cotton cloths, a set of frames, sponge to remove excess water and a work station. I saw several questions in their eyes. ‘How can this be art?’, ‘What’s the point of this? Paper is always available.’, ‘Will we even be making paper after this class?’ but after the first child plunged in, others had no choice but to follow.

Once they got comfortable with the messy art of making paper, Ravi decided to unhinge them once again. This time, with wires. Children were given the task to go around their neighbourhood and collect leaves, shells, seeds, seedpods, branches etc. The idea was to get them to start observing the background they walk past every day without noticing. Once they chose ‘models of interest’, he set them on the task of drawing those models. What’s interesting about drawing a still life, you ask? Well, he asked them to draw the models from multiple views. This is where it got interesting: children were so used to one right answer that they found it extremely difficult to draw the same object in different lights. Breaking the pattern turned out to be challenging and frustrating for them, and it looks like they would need more than one challenge to break years of tradition.

Once the drawings were ready, he set them on the task of bending wires to recreate the images they had drawn of their objects from multiple angles. At first, they did not seem to have a clue what they were doing. Ravi refused to elaborate on what was expected of them, “Trust me, they will figure it out by themselves. And nothing will compare to it.” And boy, was he right. Once the first wire rose like a projection, they were thrilled. They were transforming their 2D drawings into 3D forms of their objects using wires.


Once that was done, they proCompleted_leafceeded to ‘give skin’ to the wireframe. Using the paper making techniques they learnt in the first class, they set out to make papers with pulp drawn from natural fibres like cotton and banana stem. The result? “Oh, my God! It looks exactly like the leaf, only bigger!”

There is a good chance that the models of interest will not survive the end of the program. But these replicas will serve as a reminder, much like the relics that serve as a reminder of the civilizations of the past. Through this activity, the children’s idea of mediums has changed, their definition of art has broadened, and most importantly, they have already started to look at their surroundings with fresh eyes: the eyes of a preserver.


Didn’t know we were being written about…Thank You Prashant:)

A creativity module to shape tomorrow’s Razas and Husains

In 2009, Ritu Khoda and her core group formed Art1st to change the very fundamental assumptions of how schoolchildren were taught art. The novel initiative revolves around an extensive curriculum and is now running pilot programs at select schools in Mumbai. This group of art lovers has also created labs at various places across the city. A pilot workshop will be launched in Delhi next year.

Their curriculum is shaped as a high-level cognitive tool that makes use of specially-designed books for different age groups. It takes off with scribbles, moves on to colors, shapes, doodles, paintings etc and within the basics, let children decipher high art (Raza’s Bindu series, for example, is used for them to grasp shapes).

From the  academic year, the curriculum is slated to form part of the formal teaching methodology in these schools. The idea is to change the basics of the learning methods, and not just add to it. In essence, Ritu Khoda sees Art1st as something to transform mainstream art education. She explains that the tools used for the purpose of art appreciation are so designed to make a child creative and shape him or her to be a thinker.

Apart from boosting confidence, they look to build powers of description and vocabulary of children. Ritu Khoda had been quoted as saying in an interview: “Twenty years later, a child is not going to produce out-of-the-box ideas unless he or she is encouraged to think that way early on in life. A holistic art curriculum should give a child the self-confidence of owning an idea and presenting it.”

For this very reason, Khoda and her committed team members are against the concept of ‘coloring books’ that embed a fixed idea into children’s minds and tell this is the (only) way to do it. Constant evaluation is another feature of Art1st creativity module for children. Presently, the participating pilot schools receive a review each month from the team that also reorients teachers to spot out individuality.