The Colorful World of Autism
By: Milena Murr
Published Thursday, July 5, 2012
Beirut - For the second year running, young artist Ali Tlais (21) is exhibiting his acclaimed paintings.
His works will form part of the Beirut Art Fair, which opened yesterday at the BIEL exhibition hall in central Beirut.
Ali’s paintings will be exhibited under the title Colorful World of Autism, showing scenes from nature such as trees and forests.
Ali suffers from autism, which prevents him from communicating easily with others and generally leads to learning, behavioral, and social difficulties.
However, the young artist and those around him have found a way of fighting back against autism.
They have tried to control it and understand it. The result has been the creation of beautiful works of art.
The head of the Union of Graphic Design and Illustration Art in Lebanon, Rita Saad Moukarzel, has been following Ali’s progress closely, particularly over the two months before the exhibition.
Moukarzel enjoys working with Tlais. She discovered his talent during an art competition, when she was shown his drawings at school.
She recalls how they worked together to turn the repetitive movements usually carried out by autistic people into positive creative work.
She talks about the subject enthusiastically, and explains “this trait in autism has been of great help. The numerous and often repeated dots he drew were like the stitches created by a sewing machine and have given the paintings their own charm.”
Moukarzel adds that Ali is ambitious and loves color, music, and fun: “He sees things as more beautiful than we do because of his disability, and he can paint them to reflect that magnificence.”
According to Moukarzel, choosing the locations in the gallery and naming the paintings were all up to Ali, she just supervised him.
In last year’s exhibition, Ali sold a great number of his works and made $26,000, with each painting fetching between $750 and $3000.
The money was invested in a project to improve artistic facilitates at the Lebanese Autism Society. It also provided Ali with the necessary equipment for his work.
This approach to artistic works by Arabs suffering from autism is quite new.
Before this, the sufferer could at most hope for compassion. However, society is now more aware of this disability.
Even in drama, the topic is no longer sidelined after the Syrian director, Samir Hussein, dared to produce the television series Behind the Sun in 2010.
It told the story of an autistic young man and the lead was played by a sufferer with no previous experience of acting.
It seems, that Arab society is beginning to abandon some of its preconceived ideas about some of the issues that used to be considered taboo.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.