Open until the end of the September 2021 at Sinful Retreat’s Janus Gallery is Visions of an Aspie, a collection of original physical world paintings by Xia Chieng. While I’m getting to it late, this is a fascinating exhibition that should not be missed.
Asperger Syndrome (AS or sometimes referred to just as Asperger’s (without the “syndrome” when used with the apostrophe)) is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characterised by significant difficulties in social interaction and nonverbal communication, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behaviour and interests.
Having been diagnosed with the condition, Xia has found a way to overcome her difficulties in communicating with others through her art, using oils and watercolours to express the feelings and emotions she experiences and to give a sense of the her personal situations, outlook and experiences.
I see artistic creation as a tool for self-transformation and healing, a way to dialogue with my own internal demons and those of our culture, a means to create my own myths with which one moves through the world. I am on personal journey; personal exploration into the essence of the live; the nature of the relationship between my senses, ideas and perceptions and the external world; my conception of space and substance. Only things that are personal can be truly real for me.
My art is narrative but not literary, it tells stories but does not create their meaning. It may not mean anything, more than we can individually feel. My work is a thing, an object, presented to you for your pleasure and for my relief. It just is what it is. It is not explained alone.
– Xia Chieng
At Janus Gallery I, Xia presents a collection of self-portrait images each one of which presents a narrative – but not one in the literary sense; these are stories designed to give insight into a thought, a feeling, a senses of mind. In part, this might be contained within the title of each individual piece, but which is also mostly through the composition itself. Given this, these are exceptionally poignant pieces, paintings that might also be seen as a part of Xia’s own quest.
My condition makes me face life as a continuous challenge. Rejection, misunderstanding, intolerance have been present throughout my life and have led me to become elusive and lonely.
– Xia Chieng
This quest is perhaps most clearly indicated in those images in the collection that feature a keyhole (or in some cases a question mark) painted onto the forehead of the subject(s) in each painting. A keyhole that might be taken as both Xia’s quest to unlock that part of her that causes her to feel apart, separate and lonely, and also perhaps as a pleas for use to better understand the blurred, isolated, challenging world in which she finds herself living.
As insights into a person’s life, these are pieces that can be stark, dark and a little disturbing (Memento Nori, I was a Suicide Girl, Misery, Nightmare, Good Memories), other have a difficult edge to them (The Princess of Broken Hearts, The birthday Party Without Guests); but these should not be taken to mean these are exercises in personal pathos – life is abundant throughout all of them, with some encompassing religious motifs that speak to broader questions that can affect us, thus offering something of a bridge between our own inner thoughts on life and those that flow through Xia’s mind.
I cannot imagine what it means to be diagnosed with Asperger’s and would not try; but what is undeniable about Visions of an Aspie is the over-arching statement of the power of art in its ability to give voice, to share, to overcome – to help understand oneself and one another. This makes it – as mentioned at the top of this article – an exhibition that should not be missed, although it will be ending on September 29th.
- Janus Gallery (sinful Retreat, rated Adult)