We visited the sunny yellow building of Akshara School for their annual art exhibition that showed the students’ art from pre-school to grade 8. On stepping in we were greeted with a cardboard mascot of a T.V headed cyclops standing with its ‘unplugged’ wire held out. Wires of discarded joysticks and phone chargers dangled at the entrance with a curatorial note to set the mood for their exhibition. Through the theme ‘Let’s unplug- and experience the world around us for real’ – the school urged the viewers to unplug from the constant addiction to technology and observe, explore, play and express. These were the names designated to each exhibit space too! The first glimpses were those of huge Colourful crayons in a city of art supplies that displayed art made with tightly gripped crayons and an imagination that was let completely loose. Carefully mounted works on ginormous pencils and rulers made one navigate through them like lilliputs in a stationary drawer.The school was turned into a micro world with each room being a quirky landscape like the city or a play park. The careful use of materials and attempts to recycle and re-use showed that the teachers too had to unplug and explore sustainable materials for designing the space.
Walking through the school gave one the joy of watching these wild minds sit tamed in class, peeping outside that big door at fleeting visitors. We kept pointing out art works at times to giggle at the crazy imagination and sometimes just to marvel at the sense of composition, colour and the maturity of their explorations. When asked to show their works, the students diligently explained the process of making the artwork with bonus tips, names of friends, and hand gestures. The hint of nervousness in their voice was in such deep contrast with how confident and expressive their art was. As the students toured the art exhibition, the kids pointed at their own works proudly while aiming to do art projects of a higher grade. Some were naming objects, guessing what the scribbles were and some were just too happy running between the installations.
The artist’s statement cards next to each work were the highlights. Peeping from a newspaper car window, an expressive charcoal portrait read – “this is my Brother and he likes eating eggs.” A lot of cards said ‘thanks for letting me learn this’ and a common appeal was ‘you should try this at home too!’ Grander statements like ‘I will never forget this activity’ made me want to relish simple explorations like tearing paper to stick on another or rubbing petals and leaves to get a smudgy smelly colour.
Conversations with the parents revealed how the children are unstoppable at home too. The Stone collection is rampant – giggled a parent, and the children’s growing curiosity seemed to keep them busy. They were more than happy to let the children play and explore rather than being hooked to a phone or a television. The emphasis on free thinking and exploration reflected in the exhibition was refreshing- it didn’t follow the same template as the dated scenery with mountains, river, a standard house and a spoked sun that we have grown up seeing in a drawing class. The portraits were all different too, full of character unlike the standard emojis most of us made in school.
As a step away from the pixellated landscapes into a world without the template sceneries- the experience at the Akshara exhibition lingered much longer in the mind than the images of my social media feed do. We could not resist the inspiring atmosphere, and left some creations in the interactive space too!
Written and documented by Ankit Ravani, Visual Artist and writer for Art1st.