'On A Spectrum - an exploration of Asperger's syndrome'
"Mahlia Amatina's art is refreshingly original, and her use of colour and form is full of vitality and expression. Her exhibition provides a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness about the special relationship between autism and talent."
- Professor Simon Baron-Cohen (Autism expert)
Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome (AS) in late 2015, my perspective on life shifted as this new information appeared on my horizon. I’d only heard of AS in the context of whatever book or film I’d been reading in the moment – it wasn’t something that stuck. Nor did I know anyone with Asperger’s. I had become a one percent-er.
As I read more about the condition and attended a group for the newly diagnosed, I was keen to hear more from others and how they experience their Asperger’s. Armed with a background in market research and my newfound career as an artist (ironically occurring at the same time it was first suggested I may have Asperger’s), I decided to combine the two and devise a questionnaire that would then lead on to an art exhibition. I wanted to be able to tell our story.
'Structure is logical and safe' (Structure)
'It oscillates and moves, unpredictable' (Anxiety)
'Understand your limitations' (Survival)
'Flashing lights' (Sensory Overload)
Sensory Overload Description
'There's always another way' (Unique Perspective)
Unique Perspective Description
'The sparks fly and the fuse goes' (Meltdown & Shutdown)
Meltdown & Shutdown Description
Bus Journey I
Bus Journey II
'That Lightbulb Moment'
On A Spectrum
A Bridge Between Rainbows
Video: I talk about the exhibition background
Video: Q&A with Dr Trevor Powell on autism
Video: Participants talk through their responses
The aim of the survey was to get respondents (any adult with AS) to complete the questionnaire, by hand, and to use mark-making as a way to illustrate their key Asperger traits. Mark-making in this context means using any type of line, dash, shape or symbol – anything non-literal – to describe how someone experiences their Asperger’s traits, for instance ‘sensory sensitivity’. There was also the option to jot down any colours that the participant felt related to these marks.
Completed surveys found their way back from around the UK - but also Europe, Asia and the United States. An Asperger’s community had come together to help inform the art. I am currently in the process of compiling these responses, along with my own reactions and experiences, to create paintings, videos and creative writings. This will form ‘On a Spectrum – an exploration of Asperger’s syndrome’.