Saturday, May 5, 2007

Drawing in kids to express themselves

By Chai ML

The painting clearly shows a smug, white cat bathed in a background of light and dark brown hues.

The painter Tan See Ling asked me what I thought of it.

A non-connoisseur’s reply?

Simple. The use of soft pastel colours coupled with short, delicate brush strokes which make up the cat, and a pink ribbon wrapped around its neck show a painting lavished in feminine touches.

A contented feline drawn by a female artist, I said, with the same expression donned by the cat.

Tan motioned to me to observe the backdrop of the artwork more closely. I ran my fingers over, and realised how coarse and thick the brown splatter of paint was.

It was done out of sheer force and all spurred by negative feelings, said Tan.

Obviously, the cat couldn’t be that contented.

“Surrounded by the filth of the world, which is represented by the colour brown, the cat closes its eyes and looks away. It remains pure and untainted,” she said.

I couldn’t help but mull over how off on a tangent my answer had been.

Sensing my thought, Tan gave me a reassuring smile.

“It wasn’t wrong. Your opinion was not wrong,” she said.

“But surely it is! You are the painter. No one knows the painting more than you do,” I exclaimed.

“Yes, I’m the painter, but what you see belongs to you. Art embraces freedom. It gives me the freedom to express how I feel, but also accords you the freedom to view it the way you want.

“The artist is obviously conveying something to the viewers through his/her work. Shouldn’t we get the same message when we are viewing the same piece of art?

“Of course not. An artwork, no matter how directly presented, is open to interpretations. A painter knows that his/her work invokes in different people various sort of feelings and thoughts. That’s the beauty of art, and many artists use this ambiguity to hint on what they feel without being too direct, with hopes that the audience would be able to ‘read between the lines’. Doesn’t this strike a chord in you how similar art is to the printed word?

“Yes, both are a form of expressions.

“Correct. And why use the short term measure of shooting down an opposing idea directly when you can create an avenue for the public to think and judge for themselves on issues surrounding their life by using subtlety?”

For art teacher Tan See Ling, art is everything freedom – the freedom to express, to convey a message, to hold differing opinions, and to believe in what one truly feels.

No one has the right to dictate how you should feel or think about an art piece, much the same as issues like democracy and freedom of expression, she said.

The art instructor in the Turkish International School imparts this in her classes and also during lessons in her Thumb Art Studio in Taman Segar Perdana by allowing her students, ranging from toddlers to adults, ample space to string their thoughts together, find their own voice and convey them in their own way.

And what best way to encourage individuals to embrace freedom and acknowledge their rights other than starting them young?

Note: Tan See Ling will be holding art activities for children on Saturday and Sunday, 5 and 6 May at 11am in CM.

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