The triumph of art through autism

Since then, Sukman has met with Leizarov’s father every week for two or three hours, to discuss his son and his artwork.

August 5, 2019 22:08
3 minute read.
The triumph of art through autism

One of artist SHLOMI LEIZAROV's paintings. ‘His artistic expression is like there is more than one artist living in him.’. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Fifty-seven-year-old artist Shlomi Leizarov is unable to speak, but he doesn’t have to – his paintings say it all. Soon to be on display in Tel Aviv, Leizarov’s vivid, playful paintings tell the stories that he cannot verbalize, because of his autism.

“I really love his ability to express his feelings in wonderful shapes and colors and beauty that is exploding from the canvases that he is painting,” said Rachel Sukman, president of the International Association of Art Critics Israel and head curator of the Office in Tel Aviv Gallery, where Leizarov’s paintings will hang.

Sukman came across Leizarov’s artwork two years ago, when a friend of hers with a special-needs son mentioned him and his art. When she heard that Leizarov had produced hundreds of pieces, Sukman decided to call Leizarov’s father. “She invoked my curiosity,” Sukman said.

Since then, Sukman has met with Leizarov’s father every week for two or three hours, to discuss his son and his artwork.

Leizarov’s paintings transcend the categories of artistic styles and movements, according to Sukman. Some of his paintings feature large, expressive strokes, while others consist of precise strokes and soft colors. His works venture through surrealism at times, sometimes taking on the qualities of art brut – a style of art that is often adopted by self-taught artists.

“His artistic expression is like there is more than one artist living in him,” Sukman said. “He is like multiplying himself but in different ways, because when he starts to paint, he can’t stop. It’s something that is bigger than him, and he doesn’t care what is around him, who is around him.”

Leizarov’s diverse pieces share a certain sense of naïveté and playfulness, which is what makes them so precious in Sukman’s eyes.

“His paintings look very childish, in a way, and this was also a movement: the childish way to express yourself,” she said.

Leizarov often portrays humans and living creatures with a sense of love and sensitivity toward them; many of his images show people gathered together for various occasions, whether it be a birthday party, a choir performance or a picnic. He takes people familiar to him from different walks of life and paints them sitting around the same table.

Already at the age of three, Leizarov busied himself with a brush. He received no formal training until recent years, when he began to meet with a few art teachers.

Leizarov’s father is very devoted to his artistic achievement, according to Sukman. He drives his son to his studio, which he visits three or four times each day.

In between working for Ofarim, the village where he lives in Ashdod, Leizarov loses himself at his canvas, which he works at relentlessly.

“He has this ability to paint for hours; he will not leave the canvas until finished,” Sukman said.

Leizarov often paints from memory and tends to use any materials that are around him when the urge to paint overcomes him.

“He’s doing whatever he feels the same moment,” Sukman remarked. “He has no boundaries or rules of this plague that all of these insider artists have.”

Leizarov’s work will be on display starting August 22, at 7:30 p.m. This will be the first time his artwork will be exhibited in a gallery. Past presentations of his work have been only on a municipal level. Sukman hopes that this opportunity will be just the beginning for him.

“He is so special, and his paintings can be represented in museums in Israel and in every gallery in Tel Aviv,” she said. “The point is that nobody pays attention to people that are a little different, and maybe I am the first one, but not the last one.”

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