David Siladji lives in Mali Idjos, is 17 years old, and has shown an interest in colors, drawing, and painting from a very early age. He has tried out different techniques on canvas so far ( tempera, acrylic, oil paints). He has devoted more and more time to painting in recent years, and his works of rich color, bold strokes, and stable composition attract the attention of the public through social networks. On the thematic level, his work is detached from the motives of objects; the creative process is akin to the exploration and shaping of the invisible, resulting in paintings that look like they were painted from the inner self.
David has had his first exhibition recently, organized on the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day, with an idea to show the community his magical, abstract world, without words, in a plethora of colors. On this occasion, we talk to Gabriella Hajas, David’s mother. Gabriella studied Hungarian literature at Novi Sad University, is unemployed, and does private tutoring to help children learn. David’s father died in a traffic accident when he was three, and Gabriella has been a single mother since then.
– David has changed me completely – she tells The Disability Portal – I become calmer and more patient, learned to see the world through his eyes, be happy when it is raining, watch the wind blowing and bending the branches.
When did you learn that David has autism; how available was the information about the very the notion of the spectrum, where did you learn from, and which support resources were at your disposal?
– David was three years old when I learned he had autism. I didn’t know much about it: I saw Rain Man and read a little about it in the newspaper, knew about people living with that neurological disorder. Obviously, no one expects his child to be diagnosed with it, and after the first shock, I started investigating and read many books about autism. David’s Developmental Pediatric Specialist and his GP we visited regularly helped considerably. I looked for the parents of children from the spectrum on social networks, which were massive support. Even though I knew autism was incurable, a condition that cannot be changed, I believed in miracles for a long time until one day I realized that it was in him, in my son.
Idjos is a small community. What possibilities did you have for David’s schooling or other activities (workshops, sports, entertainment)?
– There are no autism-specialized schools in Idjos and no support groups. When he was four, David started going to regular kindergarten and later to a public school, needless to say with an Individualized Education Program. He loved being with his peers, and thanks to his teachers, that sometimes had a hard time with him, we had no problems. Children got to know him, excepted him, and invited him to birthday parties. Idjos is a small community indeed, but there are horse riding facilities, so David went to therapeutic horse riding for years. We also tried musical therapy. The library and The Women’s Forum organize workshops and programs for children on a regular basis, and David likes to take part. I have to say that David is the biggest fan of the musical festival Dombosh Fest.
How did David get interested in drawing and painting? Can you remember his first works?
– When he was a little boy, David was restless, always on the move. He was only still while doodling on the board, doors, and walls with crayons and chalk. David was five or six when I gave him watercolors, and I believe it started then. He used to mix colors for hours and watch them blend on the paper and was satisfied. The thought occurred to me that it might be good therapy for him.
Were you surprised by his creativity, or did you encounter it as an anticipated need for self-expression?
– It was a surprise; I thought it would be a great activity for him and nothing more. It became a passion for him; the act of painting in itself is an adventure.
What do David’s paintings tell you?
– David’s paintings tell me about his emotions. He uses blue and green colors when satisfied, colorful when he dreams, and dark when aggrieved and nervous.
Thinking back to when he started, what has changed up to now?
– He is more aware of colors and shapes and deliberates more about which color to use and which brush.
What does David’s creative process look like? How involved are you in his work; are you inclined to give him suggestions, comments, or practical interventions on canvas?
– I am his assistant. I help him open the color, rinse the brushes thoroughly, and bring water and things like that. I shouldn’t get involved in his creative process; I know nothing about it.
David is a self-taught painter. What factors influence his work and progress? Are there painters he admires or artists whose work he follows online?
– Everything affects him; you can never know what will impress him in advance – it is like a butterfly effect. He watches painters working on Youtube a lot. We have a memory game, Meet the Painters and their Work; he admires Vincent van Gogh most (especially Stary Night) and Fernand Leger.
You’ve been sharing David’s work via social networks for some time. Reactions on the Internet can be cruel and ruthless, but you have a different experience. What are the good things that have happened since David’s work is publicly visible?
– People approach us, praise and encourage him, but as we already mentioned, this is a small community – it might be because of that.
An exhibition of David’s work has been opened recently. How was it? How will you remember it; what are the impressions of visitors telling you?
– David was delighted and proud; the visitors were positive, wanted to buy his paintings, and asked to make a webpage for selling his work. They said that there was really something in him, that he was talented. Someone stated that his paintings were similar to Josip Trostman’s.
In your opinion, does painting influence other aspects of David’s life? In terms of communication, better socialization, and satisfaction with the world and himself?
– When a person does what they like, that fills them with contentment. In his case, that affects better communication; he tries to communicate more often and pays more attention to others.
Where would you like to see David in ten years?
– Fame is not my preference. Like any parent, I only wish him to find his way in life and be happy.
What would you say to parents that have just faced the fact that their child has autism?
– Not to be discouraged, life is full of surprises, sometimes even good ones.
Check the gallery of David’s work here: https://photos.app.goo.gl/
Translated by: Suzana Belos