Perhaps because the visual world is so intense for many autistic individuals, there are a number of excellent autistic artists. I recently blogged about artist Ping Lian Yeak, a young autistic man who displays his artwork in shows around the world. Chris Murray, the subject of the documentary Dad’s In Heaven with Nixon is another successful autistic artist. Murray, who lives independently and has worked in several jobs for a number of years, could easily support himself through his art, but has chosen to keep it as a side project.
I recently purchased Murray’s poster “Red Brick” for my office. While every artist is different, I think this work really highlights some of the strengths of autism. While the work is a cohesive whole, the details are more compelling than is often the case in more neurotypical work. Murray painstakingly represents each window, brick and taxicab. But the details don’t overwhelm, because the rhythm of the piece is so apparent. The detail I enjoy the most is that the artist isn’t constrained by taking just one point of view. Each aspect is represented from its most interesting viewpoint. The building is seen head on, the taxis driving away have a regular top down spacing, and those passing in front of the building are seen from the side. Somehow, although this is different than what we’re used to seeing in a representational painting, it works, maybe because it captures the details much the way we would notice them individually. The tension between whimsy and structure makes this a much more sophistocated work than it might appear to be at first.
You can learn about the excellent documentary, and see some examples of Chris Murray’s work on the Dad's In Heaven with Nixon Movie website.