Such a special group is not to be ignored. In Hollywood, the disorder was glamorized in Rain Man through a math genius. The reality is sufferers are sealed off in their own world. But once inspired, their brushes can emit incredibly brilliant rays of art.
Since 2012, Zhang Lijie, photographer and editor-in-chief of Breeze of March, a magazine about disabled Chinese people, has focused her camera on young artists who suffer from autism. Organized into slide shows, the photos feed her audience with warm illusions.
This campaign was inspired by an exhibition of paintings by autistic children, jointly organized by the Beijing Association for Rehabilitation of Autistic Children and the National Art Museum of China, in the spring of 2012. More than 100 paintings by 30 children went on display. “I came away deeply impressed,” remarks Zhang Lijie. “We have always tried to lure these children back to the normalcy of our world, leading them to a place of our choosing, but it’s only a dream. They have been removed from the triviality and temptation of the outside world – planted firmly within their own perspectives. Their natural intuition injects simplicity, tranquility, humor, and significance into their work. No training or education could inspire this.”
“Their expressions are different from ordinary children and professional adult artists,” continues Zhang. “That’s why we call their work ‘art of the naive,’ which I hope properly conveys the power of the paintings.” Zhang began photographing the children in hopes of showcasing the paintings as well as the stories behind their creation.
It is common for autistic children to neglect people around them, including their parents. This phenomenon happens to Zhu Ziqian, who was born in 1995 in Beijing. Lin Jie, her mother, serves as the director of the Beijing Association for Rehabilitation of Autistic Children. The devoted mother has tried myriad methods to help the girl.
“All training is compelling for the children,” asserts Lin. “The best way to make them comfortable is to let them draw freely: Lines don’t need to be straight and circles don’t have to be round.”