Let's play with art

Updated: 21 November, 2020 09:12 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

With games and exercises, a new book aims to help young learners expand their visual vocabulary by engaging with Indian artworks

A puzzle centred around  Waswo X Waswo and R Vijay's Untitled, Gouache on Wasli, 2012
A puzzle centred around Waswo X Waswo and R Vijay's Untitled, Gouache on Wasli, 2012

A four-year-old is attempting to analyse who the women in Raja Ravi Varma's Galaxy of Musicians are. The answer, for us adults, may just be in the title. But who knows what a four-year-old's imagination could lead to? That's exactly what Art1st's latest publication People and Places is all about. The city-based publisher has been putting out a series of books to raise awareness about Indian visual culture. Intended for pre-schoolers, People and Places, which released last month, is filled with lessons and games that encourage visual learning by getting the reader to keenly observe Indian artworks — like counting the number of objects in MF Husain's Untitled (painted relief panels mounted with toys) or Arpita Singh's Man with a Black Jacket, for instance.

To make it easier, the objects are boxed into categories like heads, children, alphabets, hands and legs, which can be ticked off by the child post observation. Other activities include spotting the differences between paintings, searching for images with them and spelling it, and guessing places they are set in.

The interactive book is meant for children between four and seven years of age. Pics courtesy/Artist
The interactive book is meant for children between four and seven years of age. Pics courtesy/Artist

The pieces are not restricted to contemporary times but also include those dating back to the 12th century. Visuals for the artworks have been sourced from various galleries across the country like Vadehra Art Gallery and DAG. Author Gopa Trivedi shares that the 60-pager has been in the works for a year, and that it all began with the larger idea of talking about people and society. "We thought about how we could introduce it to children in an interesting manner through visuals. Then, we looked at the themes within people and places such as portraiture of individuals; spaces like a bazaar or a hospital; and the neighbourhood they're surrounded by. This was followed by looking at the possibility of integrating other subjects — be it numbers or language," she states.

Trivedi, an artist herself based in Delhi, also asserts that the team wanted to incorporate a diverse range of artists from across India, and whose works would be apt for children of their target age group of four to seven years. In addition, it was also important to keep the element of colour in mind.

(From left) Works by artists such as  Amrita Sher-Gil, MF Husain and Sudhir Patwardhan were used; Gopa Trivedi
(From left) Works by artists such as Amrita Sher-Gil, MF Husain and Sudhir Patwardhan were used; Gopa Trivedi

At a time when galleries and museums may not be feasible to visit physically, the book comes across as a much-needed virtual trip to one. "Museum culture is not very prevalent in India and the kind of artworks in this book are barely seen in these spaces," she says, also adding that when these works are introduced in a museum, it is in a context more suitable for adults to make sense of because the audience is primarily adults. Another aspect that Trivedi addresses is the fact that specialised, curated shows for children are restricted to the privileged few in metropolitan cities. So, the book is a medium that can bridge the access gap, and isn't that the need of the hour anyway?

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First Published: 21 November, 2020 09:05 IST

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