For the longest time, artist Amrit Khurana couldn’t perform the basic bodily act of rinsing after brushing her teeth. “It was a very difficult stage,” says her mother Aarti. “Autism didn’t let her understand this simple process. It took us two years to make her learn that. She slowly overcame these little difficulties with age and support. And art has given a new meaning to her life.”
Defying these challenges, Amrit, now 23, put up her fourth solo show, titled Colour Revelry, at the India Habitat Centre (IHC), which concludes on 25 September. Supported by her school, Pathways Noida, the show presents a selection of her paintings and ceramic works, mounted at the Open Palm Court Gallery at IHC.
Amrit’s artistic journey started quite early. It was actually her teachers at the Selaqui International School at Dehradun who realised her potential in drawing and painting when she was eight. “Sensing her abilities and deep interest in visual culture, the teachers started training her in drawing and painting. Since then, she has never looked back,” says Aarti.
Amrit’s works are mostly figurative in form, mixed with an element of abstraction. She has a self-defined mode of expression. Her works have found a place at the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, and in a few galleries in Beijing, China. Some of her creative works have also been translated into a booklet by a student from the Singapore International School, Singapore.
After getting Amrit formally educated till the 8th standard, her parents decided to pull her out of mainstream education. “Subjects like science and maths were not easy for her to manage as they are logic-based subjects. We decided to take her out of mainstream education and asked her school to let her continue in the arts department in which she was spending most of her time. The school wholeheartedly agreed,” Aarti says.
Anil Goswami, HOD Visual Arts, Pathways School, Noida, says, “For Amrit, autism has become her strength. Communicating and shaping her thought processes without the linguistic skills, enabling her artistic expression without words was also a challenge for me. In the process of mentoring, I had to also believe in my aesthetics while allowing her to nurture her own freely. Her works are full of expressions and emotions. From one exhibition to another, she has found new roads to expression. What I have noticed in her creative venture is just the tip of the iceberg. Like all true artists she will continue to grow.”
Apart from practicing her art, Amrit is a huge fan of actors Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan. Aarti says, “On a day-to-day basis she watches their videos and downloads their pictures. She has a large collection of photographs of them. She is very fond of reality singing shows. That has also become one of the subjects of her paintings, where she has captured the auditions part of reality TV shows.”
Aarti has been constant support system for Amrit. At present she is imparting life skills to her daughter, which would further enable Amrit to become independent.
Aarti says, “Amrit’s day starts at 5:30 a.m., which she begins with few physical exercises. In the evening she helps me with household chores — there are certain specific responsibilities that I have given to her to prepare her for essential life skills like making the evening tea, dusting the house and laying down clothes for everybody the next day.”
Aarti hopes that someday parents in India would come together and discuss the possible solutions for children with special needs, without any inhibitions. “Even today, some parents in India shy away from admitting that their child has a disability and don’t talk about it much. Our endeavour is to make people understand that you can’t just shun your kids because of their disability.”