Patrick Samuel’s first solo exhibition ‘Escape and Return’ was shown at the Dugdale Centre, Enfield Town from 7 November to 2 December 2017. Review by Emmeline Burdett
Forty of Samuel’s strongly autobiographical pictures were on exhibition, predominantly pastels, but also graphite, pencil and acrylics. The written information at the entrance to the exhibition quoted Samuel as saying that he “sees his neurodiversity as a gift rather than anything else” and elaborates on the themes of the exhibition and the reasons why the title ‘Escape and Return’ was chosen. As a person on the autistic spectrum, Samuel states that he often feels overwhelmed by modern life and wants to escape. But then, he also realises how much he would miss everything if he did so, and has turned to using art as a means of escape.
This is a very strong theme within the exhibition, and Samuel’s pictures address it in a number of different ways. His only cityscape, entitled ‘Escape the City’, was exhibited next to ‘Travel in Stillness’, a tranquil scene featuring a boat moored at the edge of a lake, mountains in the background and a sky full of stars.
As Samuel’s explanatory notes tell us, a group of four pictures show what it would be like to look up at the night sky from somewhere that’s not quite Earth. Samuel is an extremely imaginative artist, who has clearly given much thought to the question of what he wants to escape from, and where he would like to escape to. As the exhibition quotes him as saying:
“Art is my medium of escape; from the noise, the lights, the fumes and the constant stream of information … Painting and drawing lets me soar past the planets, where I can let my hands glide across the stars as I say goodbye to it all.”
This fascination with celestial bodies is presumably one reason why starscapes of one kind or another are so prominent in Samuel’s work.
Another autobiographical feature of Samuel’s work is his portraits of people he knows and loves – relations and others who have played a significant role in his life. These intriguing works include pictures of Samuel’s parents, his grandfather, and his beloved dog – a Belgian Malinois called Chase.
One of the most poignant and intriguing of this section of pictures is ‘It Hasn’t Happened Yet’, a portrait in graphite of the artist’s eldest brother as a small boy. The title, together with the fact that Samuel’s accompanying notes describe his brother in the past tense, are arresting and poignant.
Samuel’s pictures also address the subject of his Asperger’s Syndrome and his struggles ‘fitting in’ to modern society, particularly when he has been in situations which cause him great stress. One of these was his decision, in 2016, to pursue teacher training. Lack of support precipitated an emotional crisis and hospitalization, which was followed by a rediscovery of the extent to which art could improve Samuel’s ability to cope and to reach his full potential.
This period is powerfully represented by the painting ‘Burnt Out’ – a representation of Samuel, but the place where his head should be has simply exploded. This section also contains pictures showing Samuel’s new contentment now he has managed to stop trying to do things which people are ‘supposed’ to do, but which are simply no good for him.
Emblematic of this is the final picture in the exhibition ‘New World’. This shows Samuel arriving back on Earth, and his accompanying notes state:
I tried to deny who and what I was. I thought I could ignore it and be like everyone else. But the truth is, I’m not like everyone else. Who is? And why would we ever want to be?
Patrick Samuel is currently exhibiting Clash of the Icons at Genesis Cinema, 93-95 Mile End Road, London E1 4UJ until 16 January 2018. Please click on this link to the artists’ website for more information