Thursday, April 23, 2009

Autism and Genius

The Economist in its science section tells about new research into the connection between autism and genius. One possible connection posited is that people with autism, as they don't know how to manage human relations, have more time and patience for what would appear to be routine actions such as watching a spinning coin or dripping water. Since apparently all it takes to achieve very unusual levels of performance are a mere 10,000 hours of learning, that's four and a half years of doing little else with ones' time, some people with autism may practice "their thing" enough to become geniuses at it.

Perhaps. And, to be fair, the article says more than that.

A few pages on, whether by design of coincidence, there's a review of a book about a painter of genius who certainly sounds as if he was autistic: Ian Fairweather.

Patrick White, an Australian writer who once visited him, drew on him for the painter in his novel “The Vivisector”, but in his dogged modesty and solitariness Fairweather more closely resembled White’s desert explorer in “Voss”. Whenever he saw anyone approach, he rushed into the bush and hid. “Hell for Fairweather was other people,” writes Mr Bail.

A perfectionist who painted at night by the light of a hurricane lamp, Fairweather destroyed much of his art. The 500 or so paintings and drawings that remain are intensely felt, unsettling and resonate with “a searching necessity”. The act of painting was the thing: “It gives me the same kind of satisfaction that religion, I imagine, gives to some people.” He didn’t much care what happened to his work afterwards, to the extent of sometimes disowning it, or even not recognising it.

No comments: