Tian Wang: A Chinese Art Therapist for Autism from AOAart Studio

Interviewed and Translated by Huan Zhang

“I feel what they gave me is way more than what I gave them. Because these kids are so emotionally sophisticated and abundant that they can see tiny beautiful elements in daily life which we can’t see.” 

– Tian Wang

Tian Wang

Autistic or artistic?

Evaluation is not important.

It is only important to know

when we pass these paintings,

we have been fully enchanted.

– AOAart

    Tian Wang is one of the art therapists and the international affairs manager of AOAart studio. This studio was founded in March, 2012, at Beijing 798 Art District, and is attached to Beijing Rehabilitation Association of Autistic Children (BRAAC). “AOA” stands for autistic or artistic. They help build confidence for autistic people through art education and therapy.

    After exhibitions in Japan, Korea, U.K. and Kenya, Wang and other volunteers of AOAart brought the artworks of autistic kids from Beijing to New York this September. This four-day exhibition is part of “Communication without Language – International Art Exhibition of Autistic Kids”. AOAart also launched a multi-location 24 hour painting holding event in Manhattan and a humanity seminar about art and autism in Parsons New School for Design.

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Please tell us about yourself and the reason why you choose the career as an art therapist.

My name is Tian Wang. I have been working as an art therapist for autism since 12 years ago.My first encounter with autism was back in senior high when I was teaching an autistic kid to play the piano. At that time, I only felt that he had an eccentric personality which was different from us. But later on, after I had more contact with autistic people, I gradually realized that we had many misunderstandings towards them.

The reason why I kept doing this for all these years is that, as I’ve been telling everyone, I feel what they gave me is way more than what I gave them. Because these kids are so emotionally sophisticated and abundant that they can see tiny beautiful elements in daily life which we can’t see. They taught me how to treat life, how to love, how to tolerate, how to be thankful, how to see every tiny beauty in the world.

For these 12 years, sometimes I felt bitterly and tired, and especially it is difficult to do charity in China – so there are many challenges. But just like our exhibition is now in New York, I feel that we can do better and better on this road despite of the difficulties.

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Tell us something about this exhibition.

All artworks in this exhibition are created by autistic kids. Many people may ask, “what is art therapy?” We are just using the most simple and unadorned, most moving and tangible methods to know them, like painting and music. Only after we get to know them can we help them to solve their behavioral and psychological problems. So, all these paintings were created during the process of improving their emotional and behavioral status.

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We found these artworks truly valuable because the world they saw and felt was so different from ours that they just created a completely different world which is such stunning. From the paintings behind me, you may feel the innocence. Our studio in Beijing is called “paintings of innocent person”. We want to tell people that they have the most unadorned and innocent expressions.

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How to help these kids with art therapy?

First, creating art is a very pleasant process, without any hostility. They tend to express themselves under this situation. For example, the kids have difficulties in communication, so if we ask them the same question using verbal language repeatedly, they may get nervous and panicked. But art is like a door, bringing us closer to each other without those negative feelings. Therefore, instead of common conversation therapy, art therapy is the most acceptable and easiest way for them. And this method also excavated their artistic talents. They see a different world so their arts are stunning. And such astonishment is exactly what art wants to achieve.

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What’s the difference between arts of autistic kids and arts of un-autistic people?

Their expressions are unadorned. We don’t teach a kid to draw, because his art cannot be taught. What he expressed is his natural status which is not disciplined by social norms, not like some artists, whose art is apparently influenced by certain social disciplines. There’re no boundaries in our kids’ art. it’s always beyond imagination!

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How did you come up with the idea of this international exhibition and 24-hour on street painting holding event?

New York is a metropolis of art, so we hope people to treat their art as fine arts but not only crafts. If we don’t tell you the arts are from autistic kids, you may think they are beautiful works as well. What I want to say is that we need to support and love these autistic kids instead of feeling pity for them. They need our acceptance. Only if you accept him could he have a place for himself in the society and therefore become a truly respected person.

The main purpose of this event is to make more people recognize and know them, to see their sparkles and respect them, to treat them equally in life. We held their painting for 24 hours. What we hoped was that everyone could lend a hand and hold up their painting to show their acceptance and support. Although this is a very simple gesture, just like when you see their paintings and think they’re beautiful, it’s important for the kids.

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Why did you say on the humanity seminar that what AOAart doing is focused on happiness?

It is because the kids have very beautiful sides. We are not selling our tears or our sorrows, instead, we are showing the public their beautiful sides – their talent, their gifts, their strengths which we need to learn from. The international art exhibition is to let more and more people to see this. We believe when everybody gives a hand and see the beauty of their paintings, they will feel happy. Charity is not giving out negative energy. What we want to show is very positive and let this warm feeling become bigger and bigger like a rolling snowball.

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AOAart :  http://www.aoaart.cn / http://www.aoaart.org.uk / http://www.facebook.com/AOAart

Presented by International Foundation for Women Artists


Original content in Mandarin Chinese:

    王天是AOAart (“天真者的绘画”工作室)的一名艺术治疗师和国际事务负责人。这个工作室2012年三月成立于北京798艺术区,隶属于北京孤独症儿童康复中心。“AOA”代表“自闭或艺术”。工作室用教育和艺术理疗的方式帮助孤独症人群建立自信。

    在经过日本、韩国、英国和肯亚的巡展后,王天与其他志愿者们带着孤独症孩子们的画作从北京来到了纽约。这个四日展属于 “无语言的交流-全球自闭症儿童艺术展”的一部分。AOAart还发起了一个24小时曼哈顿流动举画活动,以及在帕森斯设计学院举办的艺术与自闭症人文座谈会。

请介绍一下你自己以及你为什么选择从事这项事业。

我叫王小肉(王天),我现在是一名自闭症的艺术治疗师,从事这个行业已经有十二年的时间了。最开始认识自闭症是高二的时候,教一个自闭症的孩子弹钢琴,那个时候就是觉得他性格比较孤僻,或者说性格和我们不太一样。但是后来慢慢和他们接触才发现,我们对他们有很多很多误解。之所以为什么坚持了这么多年,是因为——我一直在告诉大家的一点就是——我觉得我付出给他们的,远远没有他们给我的多。因为这些孩子,他们的情感非常细腻非常丰富,他们能看到我们看不到的生活点滴的美好,所以他们教会了我如何去对待生命,如何去爱,如何去包容,如何去感恩,如何去看到世界每一点的美好。所以我做这十几年以来,虽然有苦有累,而且特别是在中国做公益是一件很难的事情,有很多挑战吧。但是就像现在我们这个画展一样,开到了纽约,也让我觉得在这条路上,虽然走得有一些慢有一些坎坷,但是会越走越好。

给我们讲一讲这个画展吧。

我们现在看到的所有画作都是有自闭症的孩子完成的,其实有很多人会问,“艺术治疗到底是个什么东西?”,其实我们就是通过绘画,通过美术,通过音乐,这样最简单、最质朴、最容易感动人,最容易达到了解他们的这种方式来了解他们。只有了解了他们以后我们才可以帮他们解决一些行为问题、心理问题,所以我们的画作都是在改善他们的情绪和行为问题中产生的这些作品。我们恰恰会发现这些艺术作品真的非常有艺术价值,因为他们看到的世界跟我们不一样,他们感受到的世界跟我们也不一样,所以他们表达出来的世界跟我们也完全不一样,你会觉得那个世界是那么的让人震惊。就像我后面的这些画,你会觉得好单纯。我们国内的工作室名字叫做“天真者的绘画”,所以也是想告诉大家他们表达出来的状态都是最天然、最天真的状态。

用艺术治疗的方式如何能帮助到这些孩子?

首先它(绘画)是一个非常美好的状态、没有攻击性的状态,所以在这个更轻松的状态下他更愿意表达他自己。比如说他们的语言沟通能力有障碍,所以当我一遍一遍用语言问重复问题的时候,孩子的心里是会感到紧张和恐慌的。但是用艺术的方式却不会,它就像一道门一样,让我们很容易亲近彼此。所以对于他们来说,比起普通的谈话式心理疗法,艺术的方式是他们最乐于接受也最容易接受的一种方式。而这种方式又恰恰发掘了他们的很多天赋,因为他们看到的世界不一样,所以他们的艺术作品也很令人震撼,这种震撼恰恰是艺术想要达到的。

自闭症儿童的艺术和非自闭症人群的艺术最大差别是什么?

他们的表达都是纯天然的表达。我们不会“教”一个孩子画画,因为他的画是不能被“教”的。他表达出来的就是他最天然的状态,而不是受社会规则所规范过了的状态,所以他们的画一看就是他们自己的最本真的状态。不像有一些艺术家会受社会上的惯例影响,比如说你看到这个人的画,可能是被一些社会规则所局限的,但我们孩子的画完全没有限制——永远都是超乎想象!

你们是如何想到办这个展览和24小时举画活动呢?

因为纽约是艺术之都,所以我们希望大家在看这些孩子的画不仅仅是当作工艺品在看待,而是作为真正的艺术品在看待。我如果不告诉你这是自闭症孩子的画,你一样会觉得它是很美的作品。所以现在我想跟大家传达的一个理念就是:自闭症的孩子,你要支持他,关爱他;他们需要的不是可怜,而是需要我们的认可。你只有认可了他,他在能在这个社会上有一席之地,从而成为一个真正被人尊重的人。所以这个活动的主旨,也是想让更多的人能够认识他们,了解他们,看到他们身上的闪光点,尊重他们,在以后的生活中能给他们平等的对待的方式。24小时举画这个理念就是:因为他们不能用语言沟通,所以我们希望每个人伸出一双手,举起他们的画作,来对他们表达对他们的认可和对他们的支持。虽然这是一个很简单的动作——就像看到他的画作,我觉得很美——这样一种认可,我觉得对他们来说,就已经很重要了。

你在座谈会上说你们在做一件关注“幸福”的事情,这个怎么讲?

他们有很美好的一面。我们不是在售卖我们的眼泪,不是在售卖我们的苦难,而是真正在给大家呈现他们美好的一面——他们的才华、他们的天赋、他们比我们强的地方、需要我们学习的地方。整个这个国际性的画展其实也是想让越来越多的人感受到这一点。我相信当每个人伸出一只手,每个人真正地看到这些画的美的时候,他们都会感觉到幸福。并不是作公益就要非常负能量,我们想要传达的是一个完全正能量的一个状态,让这种温暖的感觉像滚雪球一样越滚越大。

采访/翻译  张环

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