Extraordinary gift

Mysterious gift - The Artist's Press Archive
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Mysterious gift

STEPHEN WILTSHIRE'S drawings and paintings are truly extraordinary, and even more so when you realise he is a savant. He is one of that rare breed who might never survive unaided in society, but who are blessed with an artistic skill which is humbling to behold.

As a child, he had no language and could not play or respond to others. Isolated in his own imaginary world, he demanded paper to express himself. It was not until the QED television programme in 1987 that Stephen's talent became public. Two years later, The Times hailed him as 'the young Picasso'.

The late Sir Robert Philipson, past president of the Royal Scottish Academy, said: 'I have never stood so much in awe of a marvellous, mysterious gift.' 'This boy is enormously blessed with a profoundly deep form of communication that touches us all...this is an achievement to be celebrated and nurtured.' The results of this magnificent talent can be seen at the Phoenix Gallery, Deeside Studios, Aboyne, until May 31.

Stephen can look at a building and reproduce it in minute detail. It does not matter whether it is from life or memory – a minute or even years later. Instinctively, he registers two and three dimensions simultaneously, presenting an unsentimental view that captures the character of the building. Stephen's pictures are more than simple reproductions, and contain his own indelible stamp.

The exhibition features views from cities around the world to which Stephen has been taken, and show how his style has matured over the years. The artistry ranges from simple whimsical lines to the most outstandingly complex vistas imaginable.

The largest work on show, The Panorama of Edinburgh, is simply stunning.

Stephen completed it in two sittings from the Balmoral Hotel. Part way through, he changed floors o get a different view; as a result, the flow of Princes Street jumps behind the Scott Monument, but it matters not.

At present, Stephen is a full-time student at City and Guilds London Art School, pursuing a degree course in drawing and painting – the only savant in Britain to do so.The use of colour he has picked up on the course has added an extra dimension to his work and it is at its best when used sparingly as a highlight. Currently, Stephen is experimenting more with painting. Where this takes him, we'll have to see, but the result could be memorable.


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