Mahlia Amatina                    Gyan Sharma

This exhibition brings together work by two artists working with acrylics, Gyan Sharma and Mahlia Amatina.

After being diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2015, Mahlia was inspired to share the unique sensory experiences of life on the autism spectrum through her art. Working around the theme of neurodiversity, Mahlia has transformed her signature style of abstract colourism into a unique, interactive, multi-sensory experience that invites viewers to engage on a level that works for them.

Mahlia has regularly been awarded Arts Council England (ACE) grants, including the ‘Developing your Creative Practise’ fund, and has been featured as one of the ‘Top 50 Influential Neurodiverse Women’by Women Beyond the Box.

The Bus Journey is part of a series I painted when attending Central Saint Martin’s for a course on Abstraction. This was a course I had wanted to partake in for a long time, but my sensory issues and the overwhelm this could lead to put me off. Finally, I joined the course and created an ‘ammunition pack’ of all the things that I could factor in and control – and put this into action. Each morning, I had to catch the bus from my friend’s flat to the course. To cope, I had my big headphones, huge hood, comfy clothes, a personalised playlist – and a mini sketchbook and pen at hand. To distract myself, I would do quick, jagged line drawings of the London landscape and other stimuli I experienced – both internally and externally. This series of short drawings eventually became ‘Bus Journey’.

 “While taking in a new environment, I jot down sketches and journal 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”

‘Transitions’ is a series of paintings that led on from ‘Bus Journey’. I took the theme of journeying, as I spent a year living in Colombia, Guatemala and New York City. I used a lot of public transport, but these paintings didn’t end up being about this. 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. Being in Colombia, I reflected a lot on the refugees coming from Venezuela – and the privilege I had to be making my journey through choice.

“The next step is that I look 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”.

Memories is my most recent collection, which was based on Covid-19 and memories – and my experiences between the two.

Gyan Sharma is an artist living with severe autism based in South London. Gyan’s work can be found at the cusp of abstraction and figuration in a deeply expressionist style. Awash with colour and texture, his visual art situates domestic sociality and kinship through depictions of familial characters and modes of transport. Hats figure too, as if the covering of heads signifies a common sensibility, one that envisions freedom and joy in the social experience of the everyday. Gyan’s art also features text, often inscribed in abstract space emphasising the intensity of certain motifs, from Uncle Salim to Jet Air and the city of Delhi. Much of his work can be understood as an expression of his life as it occurs, tracking the conditions that make it possible (written by Kashif Sharma-Patel)