An exhibition by autistic artist Stephen Wiltshire is being held in Birmingham to mark World Autism Day tomorrow.
The artist first visited Birmingham when he leapt to national celebrity as a 12-year-old with autism and showed a phenomenal ability to draw architecture. He returned this week for the exhibition showing at The Mailbox until Sunday.
It includes a new drawing of the Birmingham skyline, catching up with recent additions such as Selfridges and the Beetham Tower, on show alongside dozens of images of London, New York and other locations.
There is a drawing of St Pancras Station, now given a new lease of iconic life as the Eurostar terminal, which Stephen – astonishingly – produced from memory 20 years after he first drew it.
But while he copes effortlessly with the complexities of neo-Gothic, his own taste is for more modern styles of architecture.
“I love the new skyline, the tall buildings,” he says.
“I love drawing the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf in London, and I’ve been to lots of places in America – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco.”
He adds that he is looking forward to drawing Renzo Piano’s London Bridge Tower, alias the Shard of Glass, which will be Europe’s tallest building.
Stephen, now aged 34, is a painter as well as a draughtsman, and seems to be as much at home with oil paint as he is with a pen.
The exhibition shows his passion for London’s red double-decker buses and New York’s yellow taxis in both media.
Asked if there were still places he would like to visit in his drawings and paintings, he unhesitatingly named Dallas, Houston and Malaysia.
Even though he has already drawn Sydney harbour from photographs, he would like to go and work there on the spot.
Christine Bailey, chief executive of Autism West Midlands, which is promoting the exhibition in collaboration with the Artlounge, said: “The aim of World Autism Day is to raise awareness across the world about autism and help people to understand what it is.
“It is good to focus on the positive sides, because often it is very negative. Sometimes autistic people have a particular interest which they can develop into a skill, but most people with autism have challenging needs and will need significant support in their lives.”
n For further information visit www.autismwestmidlands.org.uk.