When art is child's play
Ahead of a new series of workshops at CSMVS, sculptor Arzan Khambatta tells us what it takes to inculcate an artistic bent of mind in kids
When you're a child, is there a right and wrong in everything? There is, if you are dealing with a subject like mathematics. If you say that one plus one equals three, you are wrong. Similarly, in history, if you say that India gained Independence in 1948, you are wrong. Or in English, if you say that "stoopid" is a valid spelling, you are wrong. But in art — even if you can't draw a straight line — there is no right or wrong. Sure, someone else's drawing might be more aesthetically pleasing than yours. But it still doesn't mean that what you have made is incorrect. And this sort of validation gives a child a sense of confidence that helps build a positive image about the world around him or her.
That's the sort of lesson that city-based sculptor Arzan Khambatta will instil in kids at a workshop at CSMVS Children's Museum, where he will teach them how to make tiny Ganeshas out of everyday objects like paper, glue and scissors. The event is the first in a series called Sunday Art Class that the museum is inaugurating this weekend. Khambatta tells us that his own introduction to art was a combined result of his upbringing — where his architect father would keep a variety of coloured pencils lying around — and the handicraft classes he had in nursery school. That became the starting point of a flourishing career as a sculptor, which he says has made him see the world with different eyes.
A child making a Ganesha idol
He says, "The first thing [about being an artist] is that your observational skills improve a lot. You tend to notice details and quirky things that are happening around you. So, you take everything in. And like I keep telling people, it doesn't always have to be in a pretty place like Switzerland or Ladakh where only the pristine scenery excites you. Sometimes, it can also happen in the chaos of a city. There might be an oily puddle somewhere. Or it could be a broken-down ship. What I mean to say is that as you advance creatively, your sensibilities become such that you're able to see compositions [in everyday life]."
Khambatta adds that he has a firm belief that all creative people are generally peace-loving. That's because an artistic person's mind is not idle. It's not the devil's workshop. You are constantly churning out ideas for the next project. "So there's a constant internal dialogue, which keeps us occupied, thus giving us less time to think about things that aren't worth looking into," Khambatta says, adding that this also helps build a child's character.
A child making a Ganesha idol from coloured paper
But once you inculcate a kid into art, how do you sustain their interest? "Number one, keep showing them what's happening in the art world. These days, in a city like ours, a family outing is normally to a mall. There are very few people who would trudge to the Kala Ghoda art district on a Sunday and take their children to art galleries. It's okay if you don't understand some of the works. At least you see what is going on in the contemporary arts space to build up a sense of the subject," the sculptor tells us.
He adds that the takeaway for the children at this workshop will be learning how to make a detailed 3D idol from a simple and flat piece of paper. "Of course, right now I'm only using the Ganesha. But frankly, if there is a kid who sits and says, 'I don't want to make a Ganesha, I want to make something else,' I'll be very happy with that," Khambatta signs off, emphasising again how, in art, there really is no right or wrong.
ON August 25, 11 am
AT CSMVS Children's Museum, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort.
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