No challenge here, just pure talent | Chennai News

Swaminathan Manivannan from Chennai is on a roll. The artist with autism spectrum disorder recently sold seven of his works for Rs 75,000. Not only that, chess grandmaster Viswanathan Anand asked him to design his stationery, and his work will be exhibited at the Museum of opportunities from the government of Tamil Nadu, which showcases the skills of people with disabilities and is expected to open in a few weeks.
Swaminathan, 36, debuted at the Outsider Art Show at the Kochi Biennale in 2018 and since then has been catching the eye of buyers and colleagues alike. More so these days with new online and on-site platforms shining the spotlight on artists with disabilities.
“Swami has been interested in painting since childhood, explains his mother Sivasankari. “But it’s only recently that he’s become something of a celebrity for his paintings, although he’s completely unaware of how much his talent is appreciated. He paints because he loves it.
Since 2016, Mala Chinnappa and her team have been taking individual art lessons for children with special needs in a small chalet in the Cholamandal artists’ village. The program, A Brush With Art (ABWA), hosts exhibits to showcase neuro-diversity artwork. “The space was given to us by artist Velu Viswanathan who lives in Paris most of the year but wanted his studio in Chennai to be used by” artists who work freely without worrying about price and cost. judgement,” Mala explains. “It’s beautiful to see the limitless freedom and the almost daring nature with which these young artists work. This is what makes each of their pieces unique and absolutely captivating. You will find them completely engaged in their work until suddenly they walk away with complete detachment. The process is an end in itself,” says Mala.
ABWA showcases its work online and is planning an on-site exhibition later this year. “People can check out our social media pages to buy or order artwork,” says Mala, adding that the work has been picked up by a few interior designers in town. “Some people know the work we do, others buy it just because they like it.”
Chennai-based artist and gallerist Moksha Kumar says she bought two ABWA artworks at a restaurant exhibition a few years ago because she was “so engrossed in the paintings”. “It was only done by neuro-diverse teenagers,” says Moksha, who now hosts works by ABWA artists on her online gallery Moxie-Tales. the government’s disability museum exhibit, runs Kairassi, a hybrid platform that highlights the work of people with special needs. “We host exhibitions and organize inclusive performing and visual arts workshops. We also try to connect artists with job opportunities,” says Divya. Some of its artists have been commissioned to create sets.
Another online platform, Atypical Advantage, founded by Vineet Saraiwala, exclusively features the work of 125 artists, including those in the performing arts from 19 states, who have 20 different disabilities. “We have artist biographies and offer artwork ready to ship or order. We are also looking for employment opportunities with companies. For example, we recently signed with a hotel to hire a pianist with autism,” says Vineet. “I have a genetic condition known as retinitis pigmentosa and only have 10% vision in one eye, so it’s ironic that I can’t see the artwork I’m selling. But I urge all of my clients to hire or purchase work based on quality and skill, not likability. Only then is it a win-win for both artist and client” , adds Vineet, who launched the platform in December 2020. “Today we have business owners approaching us to buy art.
Art Sanctuary was launched in 2019 by Shalini Gupta, a mother “who would find it hard to celebrate her art”. “The Art Sanctuary celebrates artists blessed with intellectual challenges of all kinds, from autism and dyslexia to Down syndrome like my daughter,” says Shalini.
Art Sanctuary organizes online exhibitions and competitions in different forms of visual and performing arts and showcases the work of over 500 artists each year. “We created a 3D art gallery rented by a New Zealand company to display the art,” she says.
Art Sanctuary, she says, is for artists ages 16 and up only. “When children with intellectual difficulties are in school, they are part of a community that encourages them. But what happens when they become adults? This is where we want to step in and give the world a chance to see their talent.

Corina C. Butler