Saint John preschooler holds solo art exhibit

Advait Kolarkar likes books about dinosaurs, running around after his big sister, Swara, and playing Angry Birds. He's also the youngest artist in the history of the Saint John Arts Centre to have his own solo exhibition.

4-year-old Advait Kolarkar 'has a strong urge to paint,' according to his mother Shruti

Advait Kolarkar, 4, points to his painting Waterfall at the Saint John Arts Centre. His first Canadian solo exhibition opened at the City of Saint John gallery on Friday. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Advait Kolarkar, 4, likes books about dinosaurs, running around after his big sister, Swara, and playing Angry Birds on his mother's phone.

The Saint Johner is also the youngest artist in the history of the Saint John Arts Centre to have his own solo exhibition.

The showcase of 30 paintings, titled Colour Blizzard, is Advait's first exhibition since his family moved to Canada about a year ago. When he was two years old, an exhibition of his work in Pune, India, saw one of his paintings sell for about $500. 

Advait's mother, Shruti, who has a fine arts background, first noticed the difference between her son's paintings and those of other children his age.

"He started recognizing forms so early when he started talking," said his mother. "When he was eight months or one year old, he could make nice compositions."

When he was three, Advait Kolarkar was already working in his studio, surrounded by his own works. (Ben Silcox/CBC)

Advait's father, Amit, who works in tech and has no artistic leanings, said his son's talent came as a surprise.

"We never expected that our son is going to go in this direction," Amit said. "Every father thinks his son is following him, but in our case, it is the other way around, and he is following in his mother's steps."

Adavait and his mother, Shruti. (Julia Wright / CBC)

'A normal child'

Now a mischievous daycare student, Advait "has a strong urge to paint," Shruti said. "The first thing he would like to do in the morning is painting."

Advait uses brushes and his hands to create the acrylic works, his mother said.

"He experiments with different materials: objects he found in the cupboards: glitter, marbles, straws. He can use the paint the way he wants."

He also knows when he wants to stop.

Advait chases his sister, Swara, age 10. When he isn't painting, the four-year-old likes reading books about dinosaurs and playing Angry Birds on his mother's phone. (Julia Wright / CBC)

"Sometimes he finishes in 10 minutes, some paintings take two or three hours to finish," said Shruti.

Other than his proclivity for painting, "Advait is a normal child like any other," said his mother.

At daycare, "he's more into playing with his friends. He takes his paintings sometimes to daycare to show his friends and his teachers."

Advait's works have sold for as much as $1,500. Others have been auctioned off for charities, including the Children's Wish Foundation. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Colour Blizzard

The title of his first Canadian show "comes directly from Advait's heart," according to his mother.  

"We were kind of thinking about the name of the exhibit, and Advait was around. He suddenly said, 'I like Colour Blizzard.'" One painting in the show, titled Waterfall,  has already sold for $1,500 to a buyer in the United States.

In April, Advait and his family will travel to the U.S. for Art Expo New York, one of the largest trade shows in the country. He will be the youngest artist in the expo's 40-year history.

The director of the gallery was "immediately interested to show his work," his mother said. "It was quite unexpected."

The exhibit, titled Colour Blizzard, is Advait’s first in Canada. (Julia Wright / CBC)

The Saint John exhibit opened Friday at the Saint John Arts Centre at 20 Peel Plaza in Saint John. New works by Deanna Musgrave, Darlene Baker, Ralph Simpson and Patrick Conway will also be displayed.

Advait's paintings will be on display until March 2. 

Colour Blizzard  is the the final art exhibition being organized by the City of Saint John's cultural affairs officer, Bernard Cormier, who will retire in March after a 31-year career of supporting the arts in Saint John.

Cormier said he's never met a young artist with such skill. 

The Kolarkar family, Swarma, Amit, Shruti and Advait, and Saint John cultural affairs officer Bernard Cormier, who organized the exhibit. (Julia Wright / CBC)

"My initial impression … was that I could not believe that they were painted by a three-year-old," Cormier said. "It just boggled my mind. Most three-year-olds when they mix colours and compose paintings, it turns out to be quite a disaster: a lot of browns, a lot of blacks. This young man is able to create beautiful, abstract paintings, that actually have a kind of composition to them.

"This child has some sort of a gift."

It's important, his mother said, not too put too much pressure on his developing talent.

"We want to give a go to it," she said. "We want him to enjoy the art the way he is enjoying it, and not worry about what is going to happen for his future. 

"But if he takes it forward as a career, that is wonderful."

Advait spreads his arms wide in front of his larger, colourful works. The exhibition will be on display at the Saint John Arts Centre until March 2. (Julia Wright / CBC)

About the Author

Julia Wright

Julia Wright is a reporter based in Saint John. She has been with the CBC since 2016.

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