A Case of Strange Equilibrium
Savant syndrome, or savantism can be described either as the most unbalanced, or perhaps a condition with a certain, unexpected equilibrium, that can befall a person. On one hand, roughly half of all savants suffer from autism – a developmental disorder which impairs social interaction and communication, through inability to recognize emotions and restricted and limiting behavior. On the other, they’ve, through combination of these conditions, been enabled to use their minds in ways unimaginable to everyone else. These people can do extraordinary things, but would perhaps, gladly let them go for a chance to become an average Joe.
Daniel Tammet (1979) is autistic, a savant and a synaesthete. The latter means he has an extraordinary ability to associate various sensory information to objects which are normally deprived of them – he can visualize numbers as having color and texture. This makes it easier for him to recall Pi to 22 514 digits, and enables him to even draw it. He speaks seven languages, made up one of his own, but will never be able to drive a car.
Christophe Pillault (1982) is also an autistic savant, but unline Mr. Tammet, he is unable to talk, walk or feed himself. Despite very low functionality of his fingers, he is able to paint extraordinarily well. His paintings are striking in imagery, in fascinating and sometimes improbable and mystic, but believable characters. Through these he speaks in an artists language.
George Widener (1962) was diagnosed with autism, due to public lack of understanding for this condition in the 60′, only in his adulthood. He was homeless in his youth, living in public shelters and working day-labor jobs. He also spent much time in libraries, memorizing thousands of historical trivia facts with which he is obsessively fascinated. Mesmerized also with calendars, digits in the art he creates today are numerical patterns that emerge when he plays with dates. “I find many strange things happening” – are his words.
Gregory Blackstock (1946) also speaks many languages and has prodigious powers of memory and interest in inventories and taxonomies, which are often themes of his drawings. Gregory’s drawings are often large, on several sheets of paper pieced together by Greg with tape and glue. Using pencil, crayon, ink and marker, Gregory depicts insects and baskets with incredible precision, straight lines and text executed without the aid of a ruler.
Alonzo Clemons is savant sculptor with a passion for animals. He can see a fleeting image of any animal, on a television screen, and in 45 minutes sculpt a perfect replica of that animal with three-dimensional accuracy. Each sculpted animal is done with the authenticity and grace that very much characterize his work. His powerful hands mold the crystalline continuously. In contrast with some of the other savant art, his portrays life and interaction.
Stephen Wiltshire (1974) is an artist who draws and paints detailed cityscapes. He has a particular talent for drawing lifelike, accurate representations of cities, sometimes after having observed them just briefly. Stephen concentrates almost exclusively on architecture. He provides exact, literal renditions of any building, no matter how complex. In fact he seems to prefer especially intricate ones. He views buildings, in from of a photograph, and retains an exquisitely precise and detailed image to later recall and draw. He can “sense” and draw a building, no matter how complex, with three-dimensional perspective and precision, from a two-dimensional photo.
Ping Lian (1993) is young man who once couldn’t even hold a pencil. He was living in his own autistic world, without ever showing affection or even awareness of danger. To improve his motor-skills, he started in a house program of tracing lines and coloring. He soon outgrew that and developed and obsession for drawing. From there, his paintings evolved in complexity and artistic quality in an upwards curve so steep that it became obvious he was also a savant.
Gilles Trehin (1972) has been drawing since the age of 5, but at 12 he began designing an imaginary city he named Urville, which he describes in great detail on the images below. He has published a book with over 300 detailed sketches of his fabled city.
* All of the featured artists and talents are widely accepted for their prowess, and exhibit around the world.