French artist Sandra Sousa-Flechaire has been teaching fine arts to children at NGO Salaam Baalak Trust
The garden of Alliance Francaise and the gallery below are dotted with a series of colourful triptychs of animals you would expect to find in a children's storybook. Artist Sandra Sousa-Flechaire, in the city since August last year, is also a teacher – she teaches fine arts to children at the Salaam Baalak Trust, an NGO working with street children. For some months now, Delhi is home.
The petite 35-year-old (who could pass off for someone a decade younger) has been painting seriously for five years now, having studied theatre and been involved in television and theatre back in Paris. “It was after the birth of my daughter, and seeing her view of the world around her – and how children, in general, love animals – that I started painting animals,” recalls Sandra. Salaam Baalak Trust happened after she heard about it from a friend and fellow-painter working with the NGO. In October, she joined too. At present, Sandra is working with around 60 children there on the Andy Warhol Project, where they are taught to create self-portraits using the legendary pop artist's technique, involving elements of photography and painting. “Early next month I hope to have an exhibition of the children's works,” says the artist.
“It's nice to work with children. I might be their art teacher, but I also learn a lot from them.”
Triptychs, where three separate panels contain a different part of the subject, are Sandra's way of depicting movement in a painting and also leaving the interpretation to the spectator. There are paintings titled ‘Snail's March' (Sandra's first triptych), ‘Fragile Balance of a Penguin', ‘The Jump' and ‘Chameleon's Hunger', to name a few.
“The need to depict motion is probably influenced by my background in acting,” she says.
On one wall though, the paintings look different. “My daughter painted them. At every exhibition she would complain, ‘Mummy, when will you put up my paintings?'”
The five-year-old, by the way, attends school in Delhi. Ask Sandra about her favourite place in Delhi and she grins and replies, “Lodhi Gardens”. “The first time I came to Delhi was 10 years ago.
I like the cultural energy of the city,” she says. While she has visited several places in India, like Agra, Rajasthan and Mumbai, it is Varanasi she is most fascinated with.
“It's magic!” she says. “I'd love to go back.” She is also taking language lessons. “I was confused between English and Hindi. Then I thought I'd rather learn Hindi.”
Sandra Sousa's visiting card carries a partial image of a chicken pecking on the ground against a burnt sienna background. Compliment it, and she sighs, “Aww… I wanted it yellow. I need to get it printed again.”