Beyond the autism spectrum, Brian Varghese Pradeep and Basil Joseph Varghese showcase their art at the ongoing Krithi Literature festival

Amid the noise and activity that the Krithi International Festival of Literature and Knowledge is, sits a bright, cheerful stall whose shelves are lined with vibrant paintings. Birds, animals, still life…it is a kaleidoscope of colours. These are the works of Brian Varghese Pradeep and Basil Joseph Varghese who are autistic.

At the stall are their mothers Anita Pradeep and Sara Joseph, Brian and Basil’s mothers respectively, each wearing a button buddy announcing whose team they are in—Sara’s says ‘Team Basil’ and Anita’s ‘Team Brian’. They take turns at the stall, “the exposure is great and encouraging for the boys,” they say. Being at Krithi is important and not something they expected. “We were not sure if we would get a stall, but we thought we would make enquiries anyway,” says Anita. Sara and Anita are grateful to the Autism Club (Ernakulam) for their support and encouragement.

Sara and she see this as an opportunity to showcase their sons’ talents. Not only did the organisers agree, but also offered the space free of cost. Brian is 26 years-old and Basil is 22, they are students of graphic designing (certificate courses) at Vidya Niketan College; Basil is learning Photoshop while Brian has completed Photoshop and Corel Draw, and is now learning Illustrator. Their works have been part of an outreach programme of the KMB 2018, ‘Outsider Art’, an event for those with autism. They have also been part of shows in Delhi and Bengaluru. The artists have individualistic styles of painting and self expression.

Sara says Basil clicks photographs of something that catches his eye and later draws them— not as replicas but as interpretation of what he has seen. Brian on the other hand is drawn to what he sees around himself — fruits, flowers, and birds. “We have now given him a sketch book so that he can draw other things like the scenery, we want him to explore new things,” Anita says. Brian and Basil share an art teacher Ashil Antony, who teaches them art at their homes.

Ashil is proud of his students, in fact Brian and Basil are his favourites. “They are more sincere and committed than any of my other students.” Ashil, who works at Wallframes as artist, is a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) from the RLV College of Fine Arts, Tripunithura; he has been teaching for the last 10 years. Basil remembers the exact year Ashil started teaching him, “He says 2013. I still remember initially how he used to wait for me. In fact he used to constantly call me asking when I would reach.” His students both are developing their individual styles, palettes and colour schemes. “Basil is very enthusiastic, is now creating his signature style. Brian too is, he is completely silent during the art classes. He doesn’t utter a word until lessons are done, the minute I say classes (twice a week) are over he starts talking,” Ashil says.

Krithi International Festival of Literature and Knowledge concludes on February 16.

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