Opening up a new world through paintings

Writer: Han Ximin  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2023-04-03

An exhibition presenting paintings by autistic students was held at Chateau De Brillac, Hon Kowk Center in Futian District yesterday, the 16th World Autism Awareness Day.

The exhibition, organized by Heal the World Charity Foundation, collected the designs and derivatives from the Shenzhen Employment Assistance Base for Autistic Spectrum Disorders.

Su Ting (L) and her colleagues give a livestream about the paintings and derivatives created by autistic students prior to the exhibition at Chateau De Brillac, Hon Kowk Center in Futian District yesterday. Han Ximin

At the opening ceremony, Su Ting, founder of the base, said that the exhibition aimed to raise the students’ awareness that they can create value and achieve their dreams.

“For the autistic students, painting is not just a skill, but a key to open their minds, establish their logic and finally improve their quality of life,” said Su, who is also an art teacher for 20 years.

Children with autism paint at the Shenzhen Employment Assistance Base for Autistic Spectrum Disorders in Luohu District.

At the Chateau De Brillac art space, a few simple but delicate pictures on display were created by Zhong Jiayu, one of the base’s student founders.

When Zhong came to the base a decade ago, she only concentrated on watching and drawing fish for hours a day. Zhong’s mother tried to force her to change, yet Su found her potential and assisted her in drawing fish.

“At the beginning, we provided her different types of fish and let her observe the differences. In such a relaxing environment, her logic and drawing skills had greatly improved,” Su said.

After a year, Zhong stopped drawing fish and started to draw things she saw. Her style has become clean, clear and simple, and her drawings vastly improved in structure, composition and detail treatment.

Shopping bags painted with a cat drawn by the autistic children are displayed at the base's charity shop.

Lin Jianzhou, also a student founder, repeatedly drew dots and lines and tended to scrape different materials.

“This is actually a process of ego construction. The disordered dots and lines in his drawings were actually his materials for modeling,” Su said. Lin drew the pattern of a curtain with his unique dots and lines and participated in the exhibition.

Su and her five autistic students established the base at the foot of Wutong Mountain in 2013. Su called it a platform that helped autistic people acquire employment skills by tapping their potentials in arts such as painting.

The now 60-something autistic students spend their life at the 2,000-square-meter base, having lessons, painting, making pottery or practicing others skills. Su and her teaching staff focus to help them develop skills and potentials for employment. They try to find a way for their future.

Su has designed a whole set of 600-teaching-hour training program for autistic students aging from 14 to 18. She also has an evaluation system to measure each student’s potential, and after learning art skills such as painting, they can use these skills later on in life.

“We hope the children can acquire self-awareness by using painting as a tool. Arts can stimulate their self-awareness and awaken their enthusiasm for life,” Su said.

Su and her student partners opened a charity shop at the base a year ago and commercialized the design derivatives like cups, bags and clothes through the shop and online sales. The income was used for the creation and arts lessons for students.

A report on development of autism education and rehabilitation industry in 2022 showed the employment of adult autistic people was quite low and around 72% stayed with their parents. Su thought if this group of people cannot be well-adjusted into society, they will wither because there is no such a platform for them to thrive.

“If the students can seek a job in society, we will be happy for them. If they can’t, we can assist them through our platform,” Su said.