By Willie Gordon Suting
It was a big achievement for Skhemlang Hynniewta winning the first Crystal Gayle Kharnaior Memorial Award for painting. The son of a carpenter, Hynniewta had been painting from eight years of age.
“When I was in Class 3, I knew it was a calling. I first started by drawing faces of people and gradually improved,” he says.
But Hynnniewta faced obstacles. Believing art was unprofitable, he stopped drawing in Class 10. After asking around for advice, he then came to know of Riti Academy of Visual Arts.
Hynniewta divided his time between studies, work and the academy. Hynniewta managed to secure a scholarship after completing five paintings and five sketches.
From 2016, Riti Academy in Umsohsun became his “second home”.
“I joined here and am also continuing in NEHU because I want to be good in theoretical knowledge”.
Hynniewta recalls being in awe of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa when he first saw it in encyclopaedias. “I was at the time a child. It just amazed me how he could come out with such depths,” he says, adding that Da Vinci has influenced his works.
When asked about originality, he says it is most important, although one has to look for influences.
Hynniewta’s talent is not inherited from his parents. He adds his uncle paints banners. “My uncle does good work with banners”.
Starting with still life paintings observing the body structure and body language of people, Hynniewta has come a long way. The 24 year old is further perfecting his skill in the Department of Creative and Cultural studies, NEHU.
He counts Raphael Warjri, Benedict Hynniewta and Thomas Mylliemumlong as his many influences.
“Painting is about sight and vision. I am drawn to whatever I see. I see art in everything. This helps me grow,” he says.
Hynniewta specialises in portraits, and sells most to people. “I will keep painting. But with no help from the Government, I do apply for jobs,” he adds.
The first Crystal Gayle Kharnaior Memorial Award for Painting was instituted by Riti Academy in memory of the founder Raphael Warjri’s daughter who passed away last year. The award is named after her.
Speaking to Sunday Shillong, Warjri says, “Me and my family felt the need to do something with the compensation received from Government. So we came up with this award”.
The award seeks to encourage and raise standards of art and artists in the state. “For this year though, the award is given in-house, but from next year we plan to expand”. Warjri confirmed that the award from next year will be given to young artistes in various fields of art and culture.
When asked what he saw in Hynniewta for giving him the award, he says, “He is a humble talent who does things with perfection. And a good human being”.
Warjri adds since art cannot be taught, one just needs to be guided since originality is important. “Sound theoretical knowledge is needed for verbal articulation of ideas”.
“My message to all young budding artists is to keep working hard. And to take constructive criticism and discussion as an intellectual exercise”, he says.
Warjri says that he and his colleagues counsel and guide students to first perfect with one’s skill. “Money should be less important if one wants to grow and progress”.
Hynniewta wants the Government to come up with more competitions and exhibitions. And city schools to give importance to art subjects.
The award ceremony at Mad Gallery was graced by KN Kumar, Additional Chief Secretary, in presence of Archbishop Dominic Jala, P S Dkhar, Deputy Commissioner, East Khasi Hills and eminent filmmaker, Dominic Sangma. The award was formally declared by the Deputy Commissioner and conferred upon Hynniewta by the Additional Chief Secretary and the Archbishop.