There is a very interesting and enjoyable discussion about art and autism on Kevin Leitch’s Left Brain/Right Brain blog.After reading that I discovered this item from The Scotsman courtesy of the NAS press office. (One of the perks of being a member of the NAS Council is that I get a daily list of autism related news stories.)
DOES AUTISM MAKE YOU A BETTER ARTIST?
AMONG those given MBEs in this year’s New Year Honours was the artist Stephen Wiltshire. A big success, his immensely detailed cityscapes fly off gallery walls. He is also autistic. But are the two connected?
Ioan James, a professor of geometry at Oxford, is writing a book investigating whether Andy Warhol, among other influential figures in the arts, mathematics and history, suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome, a mild form of autism. His use of grid patterns, paralysing shyness and tendency to repetitious behaviour may be clues that he did. Michael Fitzgerald’s The Genesis of Artistic Creativity: Asperger’s Syndrome and the Arts suggests it could also be added to Van Gogh’s list of ailments. Likewise, LS Lowry. Seems that Scottish painter Peter Howson, who realised as an adult he was an Asperger’s sufferer, is in good company.
James has said characteristics associated with creativity – “perseverance, perfectionism, disregard for social conventions and unconcern about the opinions of others” – are remarkably like those associated with Asperger’s.”
The references to “suffering from Asperger’s” and AS being “a mild form of autism” do grate a little. But this is a piece of journalism so I will pass over these inaccuracies in order to deal with a much more serious misrepresentation.
In Edinburgh, meanwhile, the work of three remarkable young artists is at the Atticsalt Gallery, 50 Thistle Street North East Lane, until next Saturday, to raise funds for the Autism Treatment Trust. Lloyd Allanson, 10, Danielle McLernon, 14 and Louis Larochelle, 9, all suffer from autism to different degrees and all have produced artwork with an unusual degree of attentiveness and maturity.
I am not surprised that Lloyd’s paintings show an unusual degree of maturity. After all they were painted by his mother, albeit based upon his drawings, done when he was five.
Exhibition organiser Lorene Amet, Lloyd’s mother, says: “A lot of people have autism. Are they more talented than others? I don’t think you can be sure. I think their work stands out because it’s different, they perceive the world differently.”
Lloyd’s mother wants to stop people like Lloyd from perceiving the world differently. She is a DAN! practitioner and practises on her son. The exhibition is a fundraiser for a new charity set up by Action Against Autism. All the proceeds from this exhibition are going to fund a treatment centre offering biomedical interventions. Lorene Amet is chair of the Autism Treatment Trust and a director of Action Against Autism.
I expect she will be quick to point out the mistake by the Scotsman in attributing her paintings to her son and look forward to reading a correction in the Scotsman.
I do not expect the members of Action Against Autism to question the morality of taking the artistic endeavours of autistic children and using them to raise money to “cure” the altered perceptions that were responsible for artworks that show “an unusual degree of attentiveness and maturity.”