Saturday, October 23, 2010

ABC and Shape: Australian Art






















Title: ABC and Shape
Ages: 0 to 3
Published by: National Gallery of Victoria

A set of two books by the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, these were a gift from Aneela. Glossy books that illustrate simple concepts such as shapes and the alphabet through art, they are the perfect gift for an art lover's child and can be handled roughly and simply cleaned up with a damp-ish rag. They also take over where other books for toddlers end.

I've always found it rather distressing that at their most impressionable, children are simply taught by rote that A is a shape that merely stands for an apple. 'A', offers this book, is for Art made in Australia. The illustration accompanying it being not a flat, regular apple, but prominent Australian artist Tom Roberts' work, Shearing the Rams.


'B', on the other hand is simpler. It's for Beach, a photograph by Max Dupain, a modernist photographer. J, is for a jumper, by Jenny Kee, an Australian fashion designer who drew on Australia's culture and art and landscape for inspiration. In short, every page showcases something of Australia's varied art and culture and it does so without being preachy. Children absorb like little sponges and while the Brat and Bean don't know that the pages they are poring over are famous pieces of art, it feels good to know that they will feel a connection with Margaret Dodd's distinctive car collection even if they never remember the page titled 'C' for Car from their distant childhood.

The shapes book goes a step further. A Toots Zynsky bowl (below) urges them to explore swooshes and swirls and suggests that they find a parallel in nature.

A delirious Pucci print encourages them to explore and go wild. A Mexican mask carved simple and stark begs them to describe the shapes used. Modernist sculptor Joseph Csaky's works are described in simple terms "climbing cones crawl over the shoulders of solid shapes: stretching, sliding, scrambling towards the top of the tower", giving language and imagination a boost. I could go on but I will stop and mention that growing up with Van Gogh's Starry night and Sunflowers made a bit of a difference to my life. More so because American pop culture and Indian traditional art forms are easily available to our children. Australian art and culture? Not so much. The Brat and the Bean have long outgrown the books but at the time they were received, they were the cause of much delight.

My only issue as I recommend these books is that they are not easily available. On the other hand, they alert you to the possibility of picking up other such books from museums and galleries if you're looking to make art accessible to your child. And the next time someone from Australia asks you what you want, you'll have something other than a boomerang to request.

Image source: Wikimedia

16 comments:

sathish said...

Wow. the covers look great. Thanks for the recco.

artnavy said...

This sounds so interesting! Am asking my Australian friends to get it !!

Meera Sriram said...

Very creative and educational. I think I need a copy for myself:)

Vibha said...

The pictures are so attractive T and thanks for the lovely review.

utbtkids said...

Mesmerizing.
Will search for this.

sandhya said...

These sound like wonderful books, Mad Momma! The 'Shapes' book in particular reminded me of the time we travelled through Utah and the Grand Canyon territory with all the interesting shapes of red rock carved by wind and Water erosion.

Will try to source this!

ranjani.sathish said...

How unuusal and creative. It is so interesting to know that such kind of books are out there waiting to be savoured !! Yeah have some Aussie connections...can manage these I think :-). Thanks MM, for these lovely picks !

Kodi's Mom said...

phenomenal! time to get in touch with the Aussie mates :)

Tharini said...

God I love that bowl!!! It makes me so happy just looking at it, and the swooshes and swirls. It reminds of bright, fiery fall leaves, is what it does!!! Love the way you have written this review..

Sunita said...

Really interesting find!

Subhashree said...

As always, awesome review, MM. I wish somebody from Aussieland asks me what I want from there. Are you planning a trip to Australia anytime soon, MM?

Praba said...

A color-splashing, rainbow-dashing review, MM! And a perfect pick from the australian palette for art-lovers everywhere!

the mad momma said...

@ subha. Well my cousin gets married next year in Melbourne.. so who knows? :)

glad you guys liked it.

ChoxBox said...

Wowow! Will probably just borrow yours some day to relish them.

Sheela said...

Love the bowl - the swooshes, swirls and colors are beautiful! And, so right you are - while children may not know they are looking at art work by world renowned artists, something about it will stay with them for sure. Thanks, MM, for such wonderful finds!

Aline Pereira/PaperTigers.org said...

Great post. "The stretch art challenges us with is very much like the stretch of seeing another culture afresh," a friend of mine once wrote. And isn't that the truth... But while there are many books our there that present art and ideas about art to children, few manage to present them in ways that children can relate to directly. These seem like good examples of successful attempts.

Oh that "swooshes and swirls" bowl is a masterpiece! I just don't know that I would be able to refrain myself from taking a bite of it if I owned one! : )

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