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April '03

Musings on a walk through the exhibition

- by Priya Sundaravalli


The haunting sounds of the shakuhachi pipes soulfully as Auroville flowers float in water in shallow clay bowls. It is the opening day of the Students Art show at the Pyramids. The studio space has been transformed into a gallery and I find my way through the maze of displays. Here is art work of students from various Auroville schools - each piece unique in individuality yet harmonious as a collective, a microcosm of Auroville's own aspiration perhaps.

Aron preparing a stage set Padmanabhan in front of one of his paintings
Devi's triptych of 'Timid' welcomes at the entrance - a human form repeated in ephemeral grays, a floating figure against a backdrop of pale blue and sea foam green. In each panel the same scene is rendered with a subtle difference hinting at a barely disappearing self-reticent, bashful, and shy. This is who I am, it seems to whisper and then it inquires softly, Do you see me in you?
I also observe the viewers: there is Rajavelu pointing and nodding excitedly, and Shankar beams widely, everyone around seems open and delighted. From the French school in Pondy, a van load of little children have arrived. They dart about, reading aloud the artists' names in softly enunciated delicious French accents.
What is art - beauty pouring from the soul, a fleeting expression captured in physical form? A Paul Klee quote besides a painting reads Art doesn't produce the visible, it makes visible.

K.Ganesh taking a fresh look at his stained-glass work Djenane next to her black and white study of an athletic shoe
The works speak for themselves. Delicately executed pencil and charcoal sketches of Muriel as the human model suggest the solid physicality behind. Djenane's mystical cobalt blue and sand-coloured paintings presented as a vertical array mushrooming up stir up memories of New Mexico. Agathe's figures standing in intense solitude - a collage of gold, violets and browns - whose piercing loneliness cut through to one's own. Jonas's exuberance painted in yellows and white, an interpretation of Schubert's music, shines with a divine luminosity; Bettina's expression of her personal experience shimmers like an aurora borealis.
Art spills outside as birds chirp and the sun beats down; my feet scorch briefly and I hastily step on to cooler pebbles in the shade. And then suddenly an azure spiral nautilus frozen in glass reveals itself spinning in the afternoon ocean breeze - a deep, deep blue. I hold my breath, shut my eyes and just sink in.
I come back again and again to view the works - three times, four times, I soon lose count. The young artists and their adult guides lingering about now give me a familiar smile. I've completed the circuit, and am at the beginning, ready once more to leave. My eyes rest on a printed text displayed on a steel frame sculpted in human form. They are the words of Satprem: I believe that deep inside me, very deep inside, there is something else, someone else, who is wonderful and full and vast, who is everything I call beauty, harmony, splendour. Very deep inside of me, it lives, it hears me. I ask this thing inside me to come and show me the way because I don't know anything, I do not see anything. Then it answers me, it always answers and it helps me. It is only necessary to persist with the faith of a child.


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