Using art to understand his autism, Samuel Finch creates meaningful and vibrant digital works
Diagnosed with autism as an adult, the British artist utilises the medium as his own form of therapy – creating colourful landscapes filled with motifs from the Renaissance and Microsoft Paint.
- Ayla Angelos
- 20 January 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Spherical graphics levitate among colourful landscapes, while geometric shapes are paired with ambiguous lines and coordinates. In other parts, the Renaissance and Microsoft Paint make an uneasy comeback into a modern world, and everything appears to be inexplicably organised. Thus goes the work of West Midlands-based Samuel Finch, a digital artist who creates vibrant scenes of the peculiar.
Having been diagnosed with autism as an adult, not only might this have come as a shock but it also explained much about his obsession with art – in particular his fascination with colours, patterns and lights, “which quickly turned into a compulsion to recreate those things,” Samuel tells It’s Nice That. “I remember as a young kid spending a lot of time in my own world,” he adds. “Then later as a kid, I had to deal with some difficult experiences, and I realised that I could use the skills I’d learned to process and understand myself and what’s around me.” In this sense, Samuel turned towards building characters, worlds and systems as means of confronting the difficult parts of his life that he was unable to process. “This developed into a kind of synthaesthetic connection to numbers, pictures and words.”
During his teenage years, Samuel experienced bouts of mental health issues and found it difficult to stay in school – thus equating to much time spent at home and a new-found compulsion for creating art. “It was about that time that I had downloaded Photoshop and started doing freelance work online as a colourist for comic books,” he says, explaining how he’d shortly realised that it was time to find a job. “I had no formal qualifications or experience, and I didn’t really like interacting with people, so I applied for an apprenticeship as a mortician’s assistant but (happily) didn’t get it.”
Rather, Samuel took on an apprenticeship at a tattoo studio nearby his house, owned by a previous graphic designer who taught him plenty about the professional side of the creative industry. A grateful and positive experience as such, but his mental health “started deteriorating again” and he fell back into isolation. Thankfully, a friend invited Samuel to stay with him for a week in Leeds and, having “fell in love with the place”, he stayed put for a few years. With no money nor place to call his own, it was certainly a time filled with “chaos” – “but the chaos gave me the freedom to start making the digital work, so I am thankful for it.”
Resultantly, Samuel pursued a career as a tattoo artist due to the freedom it allows to work on his own artistic endeavours. One of which is titled Autistic Guide to Summoning – a recent piece that he describes as a “culmination of all the stuff [he] was trying to communicate to [himself] in earlier work.” A diagrammatic envelope of everything that defines his style, it depicts a mass of numbers, symbols and colours, each with an individual personal meaning.
A further piece, How Change Is addresses the necessity of change and the difficulty of dealing with it. The painting used is Caravaggio’s The Crucifixion of Saint Peter where, as he’s being killed, “his mind warps and becomes loose, free from the physical world (shown in the blue gradient), escaping into the non-physical world (the red gradient into black).” He adds further details on the side bar panel: featuring an image of a male celebrating his 20th birthday party alone, “the image is one I saw while still reclusive and it upset me a lot.”
After dissecting the visual clutter, Samuel’s hidden messages start to become clear. His art is a form of therapy, just as much as it is a subconscious act of putting things out into the world. “I usually just make the work for its own sake,” he says. “Once it’s done, I post it and then I move on; it’s a total bonus that anybody interacts with it all. I’ve had a few messages from other people with autism saying they can ‘see the autism’ in my work and how they relate to it. That felt really good.”