An article about Ultrablu published in DIRE
A mum and an art teacher are gathering together autistic and neurotypical artists
(DIRE- weekly Psychology news bulletin) Rome, 5 Sept. “Autistic people talented in art are far faster than neurotypical artists, because they are amazingly skillful at producing straightforward syntheses . They see an object, an image they are interested in and they enter in relation with it in a natural, direct way. They do not ask themselves about the efficacy of the object or the validity of the achieved synthesis- luckily judgement is of no importance to them. Such works spring from loneliness and authentic creative impulse, totally free from concerns usually linked to competition or social communication. This is the reason why at Ultrablu unique works are created that are inspirational for all of us. The natural way such artists create art works “without being conditioned” let them look like great artists.” This is Virgilio Mollicone, art teacher at the Liceo Artistico Statale Ripetta, describing the challenging project he has started with Monica Nicoletti, the mother of Simone, a 20-year-old autistic boy. Together they founded Ultrablu in Rome, Viale Germanico 103, a place that aims at becoming a multifarious space: cultural association, art laboratory, a publishing house both in digital and paper format, a screen and chalcographic printing. All initiatives will be fostered through exhibitions, meetings and seminars.
“Our objective is to give the opportunity to find a job to artists with Pervasive Developmental Disorder and/or neuropsychiatric difficulties- continues Mr Mollicone- they will earn money through the sale of their books, prints, drawings, paintings and so on. We want them to become authors. They only need to be helped in allowing their potentials to grow up. Currently we are about to publish 10 books, half of them created by autistic or Asperger artists. The other books are by neurotypical very young artists (from 19 to 23 years of age)”.
The idea was generated in a classroom. “Simone was attending the 2nd year at Liceo artistico Ripetta and Mr Mollicone, having noticed his talent, asked Claudia, a 5th-year student, who was preparing a report on “Disability and Art”, to work with him. The result was a fascinating book, containing drawings of extinct animals by Simone and Claudia”, says Simone’s mother. Their cooperation proved soon to be efficient: “When Simone is working is very rapid – adds Mr Mollicone – while a neurotypical artist is slower and reflective. As a matter of fact, it was Simone who influenced Claudia in her drawings. This proves that anybody has the right to develop one’s own potential and exploit it in his/her own existence. Hence the idea of a place that could offer shelter from any kind of pressure and influence. Ultrablu is not reserved to autistic, psychotic people or persons with special pathologies, everybody is welcome. The atelier is a place where certain fixed rules apply – only people with a special attitude can join us, only those who feel the need to express themselves through various artistic languages”.
Before founding Ultrablu, Ms Nicoletti and Mr Mollicone collected information about other analogous experiences: “There is a form of art which is far from the academic one, it was born in the last century and is named Art Brut or Outsider Art. Leo Navratil invented this name; he was a psychiatrist and founder of the “House of Artists”- continues Ms Nicoletti – a pavilion of the psychiatric hospital in Gugging, near Vienna, where talented psychiatric patients live and work. Navratil among his patients fostered poets and painters, observing remarkable artistic skills in some disabled persons”. Intensely curious to know more, Ms Nicoletti and Mr Mollicone visited Guggins.”We met the Head of the Art and Psychotherapy Centre, Dr. Johann Feilacher, psychiatrist, who has given disabled people the possibility to earn their own living by selling their own works of art. I showed him Simone’s drawings- continues Ms Nicoletti. According to Dr Feilacher this is not typical Art Brut, but undoubtedly a self-taught artistic talent and he advised us to persist. Therefore we decided to start and bought all the equipment and tools. The web site www.ultrablu.it is currently under construction”.
It will be a place of effective integration, “where neurotypical and disabled people may share artistic experiences in a peaceful way, aiming at achieving autonomy and dignity after the school years. Here I am speaking as a researcher in Social and Preventive Medicine at the Institute for Forensic and Insurance Medicine in the University “La Sapienza” in Rome, where I try to tackle these issues also from the point of view of rehabilitation. At the moment I am in contact with various centres- among them the “Don Orione”, the “Istituto di Ortofonologia” and “Santa Maria della Pietà” – in order to identify among disabled people those who are talented in drawing”.
What’s the best way to establish a relationship with a person on the spectrum or an Asperger? “We do not approach them in an authoritarian way, we try to listen to what they have to say and to sense their feelings. Solutions can be found but not imposed. The challenge is to sail in open waters, facing the unknown- continues Mr Mollicone- in our Lab every day the unpredictable can happen. Simone’s and Andrea’s drawings are often outside standards, having an extraordinary synthesis and expressive strength that expand our horizons. Working with them provokes thoughts about the essence of creativity and the complex relationship between human beings and their works- points out Mr Mollicone. Neurotypical artists benefit from these considerations, exploiting something that usually remains hidden. Unfortunately, in order to have the behavior of autistic people become similar to the one of neurotypical ones, techniques are imposed that do not belong to them, tending to dull their vivacity”. Luckily Ultrablu tends towards the opposite direction thanks to the support of Ms Rosaria Ferrara, psychotherapist, specializing on Autism at the University of Losanna.