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Autism, Abstraction and Colour

ByIsabella Purvis

Mar 2, 2017

At the current Summerhall Exhibition, Autism, Abstraction and Colour, Garvald Artists deems John Black’s work “inherently beautiful”. However, this description does not even attempt to do the artist justice. In fact, it does quite the opposite.

Deciding that a collection of art carries an objective aesthetic prowess tells the viewer that there is no need to decipher the encoded meanings for themselves. The irony here is that the use of communication by way of creative methods plays a very large part in autistic art.

The art shown at Autism, Abstraction and Colour is incredibly diverse. The condition that makes certain areas of life difficult on a day-to-day basis is also the gift of a perspective, which penetrates through a different medium to the mind’s eye of a non-autistic person. Whether an abstract self-portrait or an entire bird’s eye view of Heathrow Airport, autism art can come in all shapes and forms.

While some aspects of development can be hindered through autism, such as social interaction and communication, there are certain abilities that can be greatly improved. For example, radically heightened sensitivity to colour significantly altered perception, and greatly improved attention. It is these differences which make the global scene of autistic art quite so breathtaking, as well as promoting a message of self-expression which helps to bridge the gap in understanding the condition of autism.

In terms of Black’s first solo exhibition at Summerhall, the pieces are captivating due to their focus on abstract concepts, forging symbols and narratives to allow viewers to come to their own conclusions. Each title, however, hints at an interesting back story, which is appropriate considering that the exhibition in the Library Gallery is a culmination of six years of hard work for Black. What stands out immediately about his style is his careful attention to colour combinations, revealing a genuine passion for colour.

Morven Macrae, exhibition coordinator for Garvald Edinburgh, attributes this quality specifically to Black’s autism, which typically warrants a hyper-sensitive or under-sensitive engagement with their environment. The senses of sight, sound and taste can be twisted like a knob; dimmed or heightened depending on the person. Black’s amplification of colour is testament to this, his 12 works of art communicating the paradoxes of the world around him.

These are translated into his work; they are at once calm and vibrant, controlled and chaotic, random and purposeful. This abstract style forces exploration on a subconscious level, as his works contradict each other, not guiding us to come to summative conclusions.

Black’s works could easily be admired in isolation from his autism. And yet, as his unique artistic style is influenced by the nuances of his thought processes, they are better understood knowing his condition.

Like all successful art, his mark-makings challenge viewers to step outside their own mindset, to inhabit a new order and means of communication.

Autism, Abstraction and Colour 
Run ended

Photo credit: Unsplash

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