I have come to better accept the diagnosis [of Aspergers], to the point that it’s given me greater understanding, compassion – and ultimately empowerment.
By Mahlia Amatina
After being awarded the Arts Council award for ‘Developing your Creative Practice’ (DYCP) to spend time in New York, I am now two months in, and having an intense, yet brilliant time. The aim of the project is for me to build new relationships, receive mentorship and collaborate with other autistic artists – as well as to create a new body of work. My practise is based around arts-led advocacy work on neurodiversity that openly translates a positive message in impactful and accessible ways. The goal is to build on this through time spent in the Big Apple through the connections I’m making.
New York is most certainly an interesting city, though it has taken me a while to settle in and feel at ease. From a sensory perspective, the sheer expanse and mass of the space around – to getting to grips with the subway and accents – I can say it’s only really now that I don’t feel so shocked and jarred at the amplified sounds, looming horizons and general intensity of the people and city.
While taking in my new environment, I’ve been jotting down sketches and journaling my reactions, to help build a new collection of paintings. My process often starts this way – taking in a new space using all my senses and translating this into line and form. It feels like a journey, both literally and metaphorically, and as a consequent I have entitled these six abstract paintings ‘Transitions’. They build on from my ‘Bus Journey’ series which were based on reflections on time spent in London.
At that point, I had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (an Autism Spectrum Disorder) for less than a year, and was still identifying with it and making connections between my behaviours and what I was learning about it. It feels that I have ‘transitioned’ greatly since this time (2 years later) and have come to better accept the diagnosis, to the point that it’s given me greater understanding, compassion – and ultimately empowerment.
The next step in my process was to translate the marks in my sketchbooks and descriptions made in my journal into compositions. These would then create a basis for the paintings. Each is formed of line and shape, and there’s a great deal of rhythm and rhyme which can be viewed and felt within the paintings. The black lines show this as they weave in and out; in front of, and behind the scenes of life. There are stops and starts. Sometimes it’s stilted. It’s not what we expected. Like the human spirit and how we live our lives. The paintings reflect the diverse groups of people in the city. I found ‘transitions’ to be a fascinating theme, as I contemplated fluxes in life in general, reflected upon my thoughts and the human condition – and ultimately what we as human beings all have in common.
Layer by layer, the paintings came to life. The palette is deliberately upbeat and vibrant. I feel that as humans, we maintain a positive disposition to life events. We view them as learning points and ‘what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger’, as we fumble and manage our way through life’s inevitable hurdles. We’re social creatures and we interact with one another as we spread our messages and intent. This means that change takes place regardless. For transitions are here.
I really enjoyed producing these paintings over at the Con Artist Collective studio space in Lower East Side Manhattan. There was a great sense of community, with some super friendly and talented artists, all willing to chat and explore their ways of workings. It was a shared studio space, which I was able to rent out monthly with no fixed term contract, and that made it really easy for me to have the workspace for a relatively short period of time. I still have another month remaining in New York and look forward to making the most of the city’s immense art and culture scene, exploring it further and making more connections! Thanks so much for reading 😊
If you’d like to see each painting in more detail, please visit my gallery page: https://www.mahliaamatina.com/art-gallery The header image is a collage of the paintings in the series.
Mahlia Amatina, the Abstract Colourist, is a visionary and neurodiverse artist with an international background that inspires her passionate abstract art. With roots from lands afar, her artistic inspiration stems from the varied landscapes and flavours of her global travels. Amatina’s wanderlust and love of the world fuels her mission to strive for understanding and continued kinship with all earthly beings. Amatina developed her signature style of Abstract Colourism through her search to merge expressive colour with a narrative element. Painting intuitively from her own pulse of acute emotions, she creates storytelling through abstraction that transcends language and can speak to all. Using acrylic paint, oil sticks, Indian ink, and all manner of mixed media on paper and canvas, Amatina explodes through traditional boundaries of style and purpose.
Amatina has been awarded the highly competitive ‘Developing your Creative Practice’ (DYCP) grant by the Arts Council England to go to New York to build new relationships, receive mentorship and collaborate with other autistic artists. The aim is to continue creating arts-led advocacy work around neurodiversity, that openly translates a positive message in impactful and accessible ways. Mahlia’s website is www.mahliaamatina.com