An ensemble of ‘gifted’ artists

Art-loving individuals who are able to see the potential of artists with special needs decided to create a platform — The Gifted Art Show — to enable the artists to showcase their masterpieces


FOR 29-year-old artist Izzati Shahrin, her world is all about colours. However, the way she looks at the world (and colours) might be a little different from ordinary people.

Izzati is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and Down syndrome, and with all the challenges she has to face, she is blessed with all the support and love from her family.

Izzati’s doting mother Zuraini Anuar said she cannot imagine her life without her daughter.

“Izzati’s love is drawing and painting which we discovered when she was about eight years old.

“Since then, she has not stopped painting and drawing on anything she got her hands on. Her favourite medium is acrylic on canvas,” Zuraini said.

Izzati’s work, as her mother describes, is full of colours of all hues. In fact, Zuraini said one of Izzati’s paintings has more than 20 colours!

“There was one time, one of the aunts asked her to draw a kampung house. When she painted it, it wasn’t brown, but it was colourful. It was like nothing compared to how she sees everything,” Zuraini said.

Izzati is self-taught and she doesn’t go for any art classes. She expresses whatever that comes to her mind as she needs to simply express it.

Izzati is one of the special artists who were part of The Gifted Art Show exhibition that was held at The White Box, Publika, earlier this month.

The exhibition was organised by Datuk Khairul Yusnu, Datin Marina Su, Shaik Rizal Sulaiman and Datin Catherine Lai, who are the founders of Art4love.

The four art-loving individuals were able to see the potential of artists with special needs, so they decided to create a platform to enable them to showcase their masterpieces.

As a result, The Gifted Art Show showcased works by 25 artists with special needs. They have various disabilities and are between the ages of 17 and 45 years old.

The most heartwarming part of the project is that the entire proceeds would go directly to the artists.

Shaik Rizal had to work with art collectors and curators in order to select the artists. The artworks are selected based on the artists’ distinctive styles.

Another ASD artist is Yong Da (picture; left), who has been interested in the art world since he was around four or five. He would scribble using crayons and oil pastels.

His mother, Josephine Woo (right), isn’t sure why he is “addicted” to the two mediums.

She said it could have been triggered by the smell and textures of the material.

“He would fill the whole paper with colours. I also noticed that the paper must not have any empty spot,” Woo said.

Woo was initially concerned with his son’s behaviour, especially when he was using digital colouring apps on the special electronic drawing device.

“In certain digital colouring pages, there’d be borders where you are unable to fill with colours. If he was unable to fill these parts with colours, he would throw a tantrum — which was why I started him with drawing,” she said.

Yong Da, 23, started painting with a lot of flowers because he was always in the garden, plus it was the easiest subject. Some of his paintings of flowers were showcased at the exhibition.

“Since he is autistic, he likes to do the same thing repeatedly…”

Izzati’s work, as her mother describes, is full of colours of all hues. In fact, one of her paintings has more than 20 colours!

Apart from painting flowers, Yong Da also painted the Petronas Twin Towers because it reminded him of his visit to the KLCC Park where he played at the swimming pool.

According to Woo, KLCC is like his son’s plea to have more time at the KLCC Park since he is unable to speak in long sentences.

The other special artist who was chosen for the show is Pua Zhe Xuan, who was diagnosed with autism when he was three. He even had to go for surgery and speech therapy.

“He is in the low-functioning category because he is non-verbal. He only knows how to write, but he is not good at counting and reading. He also has a short attention span and lacks eye contact,” his mother, Lai May Seah, said.

His parents realised that he loved drawing when he was five when he started scribbling. They then decided to send Zhe Xuan for formal art lessons.

“Zhe Xuan likes to paint natural objects such as faces, flowers and plants…Maybe because it has a shape like an oval and circle, so it’s easy for him to paint,” she said.

His first art exhibition was in 2003 at the National Art Gallery, Kuala Lumpur (KL).

Meanwhile, deaf artist Zulaiha Zulkapli was born normal. However, she was diagnosed with a viral infection in her brain when she was five, which left her deaf.

She is known for her oil on canvas paintings of kampung scenes. The paintings are so detailed-driven and offer certain photo- graphic and nostalgic vibes.

Growing up without that many friends, Zulaiha certainly has a special connection with her paintings.

Among her renowned clients are Datin Seri Paduka Marina Mahathir and the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negri Sembilan, Tuanku Muhriz Tuanku Munawir.

Also chosen to be part of the exhibition was Nur Fariza Abu Hassan, whose paintings are popular on social media, with more than 18,000 likes and 30,000 retweets.

Her earlier paintings on Star Wars characters, landscapes and still lives were posted on her brother’s Twitter account @FaizTobeng and had even managed to be sold online.

When she was little, Nur Fariza was diagnosed with a rare genetic disease called mucopolysaccharidosis type IV which refers to a group of inherited conditions.

This condition makes the body unable to break down mucopolysaccharides which are long chains of sugar molecules found through-out the body, thus creating sugar build-ups in blood, connective tissues and cells which can cause an array of health complications.

With all the limitations, these artists still manage to express themselves via their art. Having the right support is all they need…