Get-hooked April 20, 2021
Amrit Khurana, young artist with autism from India, finds a new canvas in sarees
Ordinary moments that most of us overlook inspire Amrit Khurana. This young artist with autism from India has no formal training but has acquired fame for her unique and imaginative works of art. Amrit is currently making waves for a range of sarees she has designed for Suta, the well-known sustainable saree brand.
It’s called simply, To Amrit With Love. The patterns and designs in the four sarees and blouses in this new range by sustainable saree brand Suta, capture the beauty and ordinary wonders of the world through the gaze of 27-year-old Amrit Khurana, a young artist with autism from India.
The collection, released in April to mark Autism Awareness Month, is the first time that Suta founders Sujata and Taniya Biswas, have collaborated with an artist with a disability.
The collaboration, says Amrit’s mother Aarti Khurana, happened quite by accident. “We were browsing on Instagram over a year ago and came across the brand Suta and found the name unusual”, says Aarti, who is a schoolteacher. “I got hooked to their posts and started showing them to Amrit”.
Autism & artistic ability
Many studies have established the strong links between autism and artistic ability. Children with autism have creative and cognitive abilities that far exceed their peers who are not on the spectrum. They are also better able to process details that other children.
In Amrit’s case too, this was evident from an early age. Formally diagnosed when she was 19 years old, this artist with autism has no formal training but she takes a keen interest in the day-to-day details and this show in her absorbing art that captures vividly the minute details. Amrit showed an interest in art when she was just three years old but the parallels between autism and artistic ability were initially overlooked as her parents were grappling with behavioural issues.
“We never paid any attention as we were struggling with her issues and the fact that she was non-verbal”, says Aarti. “She was eight years old when her artistic skills were recognised by her teacher at the Selaqui World School in Dehradun in north India and we realised that our daughter was speaking to us through her art”.
As her parents started paying closer attention, they were captivated and moved by the deeper connections and meanings Amrit was making. “Amrit had non-verbal autism but through her art would express even small outings and trips that we would make as a family across India. It could be the view of the mountains through a room in her window. Once we were travelling and stopped to take a break. There she saw some stray animals and drew them in her own unique way. Art masters later called it a unique piece”, says a proud Aarti.
Amrit’s journey as a person on the spectrum, the links between her autism and artistic ability have also been has been made into a documentary titled The reason I Jump. This was released at the Sundance Film Festival in January this year where it won the Audience Award.
During the lockdown, on a whim, Aarti wrote to the Suta founders and suggested a collaboration, sharing a link to Amrit’s website which showcases her works.
Distinct style rooted in Indian context
Amrit does a lot of figurative work that shows her world view and her own distinct style of seeing things. I thought this would look interesting in a different medium and Suta was open to the idea. Aarti shared some pictures which she thought may look good on a fabric and we scaled it down We tried to scale it down for a saree pallu. After working on this for about three months, four designs were finalised. – Aarti Khurana, Amrit’s mother
The Suta founders say they were moved by the letter and were stunned by Amrit’s distinct style and how her autism has shaped her art, it’s pure, raw emotion.
“The photo doesn’t look anything like the reality, yet the emotion on her canvas is stronger and almost talks to us. We felt that a saree full of emotion is what Suta is. And hence we HAD to work together”, say Sujata and Taniya Biswas. They are thrilled with the response to the Amrit range. “We have got so many customers who have loved the designs and have placed pre orders. They have emailed us just to appreciate the design and to know more about the collaboration. The uniqueness and the perspective with which Amrit has designed the sarees makes us rethink and relook at things differently”.
As for Amrit, she is excited by the new avenues she has discovered to showcase her distinct style. “Suta has opened a new world and now we are looking for more people she can collaborate with”, says Aarti.
Click here to see the To Amrit with Love collection
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