Discovered by Arno Stern, this activity allows a free self expression and self discovery, and respects the rhythms and uniqueness of each child, beyond all competitiveness. 4 ateliers of “Play of Painting” exist now in the schools and outreach schools of Auroville: Centerfield Kindergarten, Udavi school, Oli schoold and Nandanam Kindergarten. The need is now there to move a step further and have a special dedicated place allowing mixed aged groups (children and adults), thus participating in the development of Auroville as an educational place for an unending Youth. This new space will respect the required dimensions for an ideal unfolding of the “Play of Painting” and will have an archives room attached.

Introduction to the “Play of Painting”

The “Play of Painting” was created by Arno Stern. He discovered that it is only in some specific conditions that the inner language of the organic memory can manifest itself as a set of 70 signs that he calls “Formulation”.
Arno Stern explains that the formulation is a universal code directly connected to our genetic program. Generally, we don’t have memories of the time period before the age of two. What happened before is “lost” but not gone: the person lives it, beyond his/her normal state of consciousness and it escapes verbal language. The formation of the organism is important, yet there always exists this organic memory underlying it! Today, specialists speak about cellular memory. This cellular or organic memory has its own code of expression: the formulation. What happens in the painting room is unique and allows the person to reconnect with the beginning of her/his personal story. This crucial source of early recording can be rediscovered, be it at 5 or 50 years of age.

Through this essential process, a transformation of the being starts whatever the age, nationality or cultural background.

This activity is based on a non-judgmental attitude; children here are free to paint whatever they like. The adult present is a respectful servant.

In the painting room, the person is in the process of forming and structuring an essential part of her being during this crucial and natural development. The evolution of the paintings goes together with the evolution of the being in their own specific pace. It is essential not to interfere.

The room, also called “Closlieu” by Arno Stern, and conditions for the Play of Painting

“The lay-out of the “Closlieu” is composed of an enclosed and secure space surrounded by three meters high vertical panels covering the four walls, on which the sheets of paper are fixed with pins. Children of mixed age and adults paint together in groups of 12 to 15, thus avoiding any kind of competition and allowing a powerful group dynamic. Arno Stern conceived, in the middle of the room, a wonderful instrument which he often describes as irresistible: “La Table-Palette”, which offers eighteen colors.” *

“… the specific lay-out of the room fosters an atmosphere of security, respect, calm, and trust. Here, time stops, the feeling of permanence takes over: each week at the same time, the child finds this unchanging space again which allows him to build his own self in trust and confidence, feeling safe and protected from external influences.” *

Children don’t bring their drawings home. Claire explains why: “… as this space encourages the centering process, it must remain protected and untouched in order to witness the birth and development of the child’s dialogue with herself. However the child can look at her own file after the sessions, even months or years after she has left the workshop. In this way, the servant plays the role of guardian and warrant, which reassures participants: “I don’t bring my paintings back home but they are safe and at my disposal.” One could say that by disowning them, the paintings remain fully the child’s! Though it might surprise at first, this implicit contract becomes soon pleasant and a source of complicity, like all the other aspects of the game.” *

Benefits of the “Play of Painting”

Claire explains that “Being neither art nor therapy, the benefit of these sessions is not to be found in the paintings created (though the child is gaining great technical abilities) but in the inner process and the evolution generated. Arno Stern calls this expansion the “Plusêtre” (Being more):
The shy children gain more self-confidence and trust in their abilities; the strong children become less aggressive and more respectful of the others. Here, technical mastery, creativity and self-discipline arise freely within the group.” *

“Furthermore, because the person is respected here as a unique being, she finds and enriches her own expression and creativity. The more one learns how to draw from one’s own inner resources rather than from external ones, the more one’s self confidence will grow: “I can do it!”” *

The Play of Painting in Auroville

For the time being, the Play of Painting is happening at four locations in Auroville: Center Field Kindergarten, Nandanam kindergarden, Udavi School, Oli school (the two latest welcoming children from the surrounding villages). The number of people interested continues to grow and a workshop in Lilaloka will allow to respond to this need. Sandrine, who has been an active member of Lilaloka for many years, as well as Claire who has been part of Lilaloka and supports the project from the beginning, contributed greatly to make this happen.

If you would like to get a deeper understanding of the Play of Painting, you can visit Arno Stern’s website:

* Extract from the book “Looking at children’s paintings in a new light” – 2009, by Claire Le Touzé, practitioner of the Play of Painting in Auroville.